Chandler Romeo is convinced he’s a different hockey player than he was 12 months ago. He just wishes he’d had the chance to prove it.

Romeo was one of the many young hockey players who, after riding a wave of highs and lows all year, were crushed by news earlier this week that the Ontario Hockey League was officially cancelling its season thanks to the ongoing crises created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A couple of weeks ago, we received permission from the chief medical officer and the premier that we could return and play,” league commissioner David Branch said on a video conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “On the eve of that announcement, the COVID-19 conditions dramatically worsened.

“Since then, we've had an extended stay-at-home order, the increasing severity of the variants ... we just couldn't safely return to play this season.”

That means, unlike its major junior cousins the Western League and the Quebec League, the OHL will not contest a single game this year. Every OHLer Sportsnet spoke with said some variation of, “It sucks, but I understand.” Still, there’s no mistaking the deflated souls, whether talking to NHL Draft hopefuls or over-agers pining for one last year to prove themselves. The OHL had targeted several different start dates throughout the year, only to push them back each time. The cycle of getting psyched for a return, then hearing it was a no-go after all really took a toll.