The Quality Foods Oceanside Generals are happy to be back on the ice training again.
The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League team, following the guidelines laid out by the provincial health authority, has been able to conduct practices under viaSport Phase 2 protocols. They started on Monday, Jan. 4, adhering to the guidelines such as three-metre physical distancings before, during and after the sessions.
The Generals hope to quickly regain their playing form that was interrupted when VIJHL games were cancelled last November due to COVID-19.
The VIJHL had plans to resume games on Jan. 15 but it’s unlikely to happen now as the latest public health order extends Phase 2 until Feb. 6.
“We’re doing everything we can as a league to be fully ready but at the end of the day, it’s going to be the call of the health authorities,” said Gerry Bickerton, Generals president.
The plan is to have VIJHL teams play in three cohorts – a four-team cohort of Victoria Cougars, Saanich Predators, Westshore Wolves and Peninsula Panthers; a three-team cohort of Kerry Park Islanders, Nanaimo Buccaneers and the Generals; and a two-team cohort of the Campbell River Storm and the Comox Valley Glacier Kings.
Pending league approval, cohorts will draw up their own schedule, with the league having approved the schedule for the Greater Victoria cohort.
Bickerton said it hasn’t been easy for the players and coaches when all games were halted on Nov. 21 as well as limited the training to only players aged 18 and younger.
“We have mostly 19- and 20-year-olds, that’s half our team,” said Bickerton. “When they weren’t allowed to train, we just determined at that point it wasn’t worth practicing. That was pretty much most of December.”
On Dec. 28, the provincial heath authority allowed athletes between the ages of 18 and 22 to get back to practising together in small groups under a modified Phase Two guideline, which Bickerton said keeps changing.
“It’s been a challenge to say the least I think for everybody involved in the league organization,” said Bickerton. “It’s teaching me to be a lot more flexible, I’ll tell you that much. There’s certainly some frustrations out there. We’ve done a good job with our protocols and we’ve been able to play quite well and smooth. We’ve adapted to different changes but it is challening when the rules keep changing all the time.”
Bickerton hopes they can resume playing again.
“To get the players back on the ice is all that matters right now,” said Bickerton. “All the work that everyone did behind the scenes through the summer, it would be rewarding to see the players play hockey again. They just love the game and they just want to play and be given the opportunity.”
While the VIJHL waits for the green light, BC Hockey announced the cancellation of the 2021 Cyclone Taylor Cup, the championship tournament that sees the winner of the VIJHL compete with the respective league winners from the International Junior Hockey League, the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL), and a host for the trophy bearing the name of the iconic, Hall of Fame hockey player.
— Files from Black Press