Following the extension of enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols, the BCHL will delay the start of its season until January, at the earliest.

The BCHL said the restrictions prevent players 19 or older from joining in team activities, but those 18 or younger can still participate.

“For the past nine months, the Board of Governors, the League Office and the Return-to-Play Task Force have done everything possible to do right by our players and the public,” said Graham Fraser, Chairman of the Board. “Under our PHO-approved COVID-19 Safety Plan, we successfully trained and played exhibition games from September to November, completing 90 games without a transmission, but the current restrictions will not allow us to start our regular season in December.”

Restrictions on events, gatherings, team sports, and mask-wearing in public has been extended through the holiday season until at least January 8th.

The league is considering its options to get the season started as soon as it can.

“We remain committed to exploring every option available to us to start our season safely and as soon as possible, including presenting the concept of a BCHL hub. We look forward to getting things going again in January with all of our players back on the ice,” said Fraser.

According to the BCHL, 48% of its players are 19 or older, making nearly half the league ineligible to practice with the team under current restrictions.

The league added that it has adhered to all travel restrictions imposed by the Provincial Health Office (PHO), and none of its players are traveling outside of their home arena.

“We are disappointed that our 19 and 20-year-old players are not able to join their teammates in on-ice activities,” said Chris Hebb, BCHL Commissioner. “We are working diligently with BC Hockey, viaSPORT BC and the PHO to get our older players on the ice, but at the moment we must follow the PHO’s order as written.”

The restrictions are not just having an impact on practice for the older players, however.

“While the current restrictions only directly affect athletes age 19 and up, there are unintended consequences for our younger players as well,” said Steven Cocker, BCHL Executive Director. “Although they are still allowed on the ice, the fact remains that half of their teammates are not, which essentially means their teams and the league are forced to pause operations until restrictions are lifted.”

If current restrictions are extended past January 8th, the league said it will make a decision on when play can resume.