The Kootenay International Junior Hockey Leauge (KIJHL) has put in requests to the provincial and federal governments for financial assistance, in hopes of alleviating the financial burden on their 20 teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With 13 community-owned franchises and seven privately-owned clubs, the KIJHL said they’ve already experienced “heavy financial losses” because of the virus and expects those challenges to continue.

“Our league has been operating for more than 50 years and our teams make a huge impact in their communities, both on and off the ice,” said Jeff Dubois, KIJHL Commissioner. “The reality we’re facing now is that without some financial assistance from the government, that may not be able to continue. When it comes to quantifying the negative financial impact on our league and teams, it’s clear we’re feeling the effects in a number of different areas.”

The KIJHL is hoping they can access funding from the provincial government, as well as the federal government’s $500-million relief program for arts, culture and sports organizations.

The KIJHL said the eight teams still involved in the Teck Cup playoffs lost “significant revenue” once the rest of the season was cancelled, including the Kimberley Dynamiters and Columbia Valley Rockies. All 20 teams also were forced to cancel their annual spring camps, which provides a major source of revenue every year.

“When you put all of that together, the impact at the individual team level could very well be in the tens of thousands of dollars,” said Dubois. “And when you factor in all 20 teams in our league, it wouldn’t be a stretch to project an overall impact of a million dollars or more.”

Dubios said the teams have already started to review and tighten their budgets for the 2020/21 season, preparing for a continued loss in revenue and a decreased number of ticket sales and sponsorships.

While the KIJHL is seeking financial assistance, Dubois is still optimistic they can return to the ice soon.

“We’re hopeful that we can proceed with a full 2020/21 season beginning in September, but there are a number of hurdles to clear before we get to that point.”

The KIJHL said they are continuing to work closely with Hockey Canada for any latest updates from the governing body and relevant health authorities which may determine when teams can resume on-ice activities. The league is hopeful they can start their season on time if it is safe to do so.

“We’re thinking positively because we know everybody involved with our league wants to be back on the ice, but we’re also planning ahead in case the season is delayed, or the financial challenges put us in a spot where plans have to change on the fly.”

Dubois reiterated that the health and safety of the KIJHL’s players, staff, volunteers, sponsors, and fans remain their main priority in every decision they make.