BCHL players will finally get to lace up their skates again in early September, though hockey season won’t start until December.
The B.C. Hockey League announced today that it plans to start the 2020-21 regular season Dec. 1. A press release from the league said that its communications with the province and health officials suggested that waiting until December “gives us the best chance at ensuring we have an uninterrupted season, while also maximizing the amount of regular-season games we’ll be able to play,” said Chris Hebb, BCHL commissioner.
Teams are being given the option to start training camp in September, and divisional exhibition games will be able to start once the province moves to Phase 3 of ViaSport B.C.’s return-to-play model, the BCHL press release notes.
The Nanaimo Clippers say they plan to open training camp Sept. 8, while the Alberni Valley Bulldogs say they’re planning for camp to open Sept. 14. An Island Division exhibition tournament is being planned to start in October and the BCHL news release noted that divisional exhibition games will be live-streamed.
“There’s going to be games played in that time, we’re just not confident we’re going to have a large capacity [for fans],” said Tali Campbell, Clippers general manager.
He said league governors anticipate that by Dec. 1, they’ll be able to fill arenas to at least a 50-per cent capacity.
The BCHL hasn’t released its regular-season schedule yet.
“Once the number of games has been determined along with the special protocols that will be put in place, we will be happy to provide more information,” noted a statement from Vernon Vipers ownership. “We look forward to seeing our fans and partners again very soon.”
The Bulldogs say they’re working closely with municipal staff to make sure their multiplex will be ready to welcome fans back into the building safely once the season starts.
“We’re anxious for the day when we can re-open our doors for our home opener and welcome our amazing fans back,” said David Michaud, Bulldogs president, in a press release.
BCHL teams rely on ticket sales, and will have limited or no gate during the first few months of the season while absorbing costs of running a junior hockey program.
“We’re certainly having to re-juggle our books and figure out ways to make things work in the larger scheme of things,” Campbell said.
But he said “every governor’s on board” with the extended training camp model meant to engage players, help them achieve their hockey and education goals, and prepare them for a 2020-21 season.
“[Players] want to come back … they want to aim to win a championship here,” Campbell said. “They want to get back into that culture of things and get going on practising and being part of a team.”