The BC Hockey League (BCHL) approved a shortened 2020/21 regular season after its proposal and COVID-19 Safety Plan were given the green light by the Provincial Health Office (PHO).
According to the league, they will operate in a regional model. There will be five different hub cities around British Columbia, all hosting three to four teams in each pod.
“After months and months of hard work behind the scenes by the league’s Return-to-Play Task Force, we are pleased to make the announcement today that the BCHL will be back on the ice to play the 2020/21 season,” said Chris Hebb, BCHL Commissioner. “This entire process has always been about our players and giving them the best chance to get back to playing games and showcasing their skills, and we have accomplished that.”
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The BCHL said their shortened season will drop the puck in the first week of April. Further details on the host cities, as well as a full schedule, will be released in the coming weeks.
“We want to thank the PHO, the Chief Medical Health Officers and regional public health staff for working with us on our proposal over the past few weeks and getting it to a point that both sides felt was safe,” said Graham Fraser, Chairman of the BCHL Board of Governors. “We proved in our extended exhibition season in the fall that our COVID-19 Safety Plan was effective after playing 89 games with zero transmissions, and we look forward to working within that system again.”
In September and October, the BCHL saw several teams play anywhere from 7 to 16 games in preparation of their regular season in November. However, the season was indefinitely postponed following new COVID-19 protocols and further lockdown measures.
“It’s been a long road for everyone involved with the league since we were shut down in November, but we are grateful that we get a chance to finish what we started and get our young athletes back on the ice,” added Fraser.
To initiate a safe return to play, the league has hired a dedicated Chief Medical Officer. They will oversee all of the BCHL’s COVID-19 safety protocols for the five-week season such as testing, and quarantine measures for the players and team staff.
“At the end of the day, our league is all about getting players scholarships and moving them on to the next level to allow them to pursue their athletic and educational goals,” said Steven Cocker, BCHL Executive Director. “With no games since November, it has been difficult for these players to get noticed by college programs and, as a result, we’ve seen a significant effect on the number of college commitments in the league this year. With a shortened season now in place, we are thrilled to get our players back in the spotlight and give them the attention they deserve.”
The BCHL said further information will be released over the weekend as they iron out the final details with the PHO as well as Chief Medical Health Officers across the various regions.
That’s all the BCHL has to say at the moment after being given approval for some form of a regular season, following months of uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic.
At this time, there have been no official details from the BCHL on their return to play procedure.
According to reports by The Province, the BCHL is expected to play games in five regional hub cities.
The Cranbrook Bucks and other BCHL teams had exhibition games in September and October and were gearing up for the start of the regular season in November. However, new COVID-19 protocols at the time shuttered the season indefinitely.
The BCHL made a request to the B.C. Government alongside the five WHL teams in British Columbia for $9.5-million. Reports on the ask from the teams were that the WHL would receive $6.5-million, whereas the BCHL would get $3-million.
None of the reports have been officially verified by the BCHL at this time, but an announcement is expected later in the day Friday. More to come.