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BCHL announces tentative return to play start date

Image Credit: Cherie Morgan Photography via Penticton Vees
July 17, 2020 - 2:57 PM

The B.C. Hockey League has announced its plan for the start of the 2020-2021 season, pending approval from the provincial health office.

“We’ve been having discussions with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture since March around a safe return to play,” said BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb, in a BCHL news release. “The provincial health office has indicated to us 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.”

The tentative season is scheduled to begin Dec. 1 and a full schedule with a December start date will be announced at a later date. The pushback to Dec. 1 aligns with the NHL’s plan to start their 2020-21 season, according to the BCHL news release.

That's good news for the Penticton Vees, Vernon Vipers and West Kelowna Warriors.

“The regular season will start later and play deeper into next Spring. We will still have our players here developing this fall, but it provides us an additional couple months to prepare to host our fans again in Royal Lepage Place. In the long run, I think we’ll all be better off for it,” said Warriors president Chris Laurie, in a press release.

To be able to operate, the BCHL needs fans in the buildings, and the best way to accomplish that is to delay the start of the season to give time to assess the possible effects of a potential second wave of COVID-19 during flu season, said chairman of the BCHL Board of Directors Graham Fraser, in the BCHL press release.

Teams will have the option to hold an extended training camp from September to November, which will include regular on-ice training. Once the province moves into Phase 3 of viaSport B.C.’s Return to Play model, exhibition competition with other BCHL teams will be expanded in-region.

Training camps will be permitted to begin as early as Sept. 8 under current mass gathering restrictions which only allow up to 50 people on the ice and in the stands. Teams may also continue to run summer invite camps up until that date, according to the BCHL news release.

The extended training camps will follow the COVID-19 guidelines set out by viaSport BC.BCHL venues are also preparing for protocols to be enforced once the buildings are open to fans again.

Once exhibition competition resumes, it will be streamed live on HockeyTV and live-scored on the BCHL website. Inter-division competition will be held within regions throughout the BCHL.

The Western Hockey League has targeted a start date of Oct. 2 for the 2020-21 regular season, but this date remains contingent on receiving the necessary approvals from government and health authorities in each of the six jurisdictions in WHL territory, according to a WHL announcement back in June.

The league stopped play on March 18 and cancelled the Memorial Cup, which was to be played in Kelowna.

READ MORE: Western Hockey League turns to tech to save the next season

If the 2020-21 season is played, it will likely include a re-alignment so there will be exclusively Canadian and American divisions until the 14-day mandatory quarantine is lifted for people arriving from other countries.

And, if the Memorial Cup is held in 2021, it will not be in Kelowna as it rotates through different Canadian leagues. It’s down to two Ontario finalists for 2021.

The start of the 2020/21 Champions Hockey League season has been postponed until Oct. 6, from Sept. 3, as per the CHL board’s decision back in April.

“The Champions Hockey League is a pan-European competition with 13 countries involved, which means that we are dependent on the decisions and regulations set by 13 different governments”, CHL President Peter Zahner said in the announcement. “Our participating teams must be able to travel, and our goal is that games will only be played with spectators in the arenas. For this reason, and because of the high degree of uncertainty across the continent, we have decided to be proactive and not to take the risk of requiring urgent changes closer to the original start date.” 

The start of the season is now planned for the originally scheduled date for Game Day 5. This means that the season has been shortened by four Game Days which requires a change in the playing format for the 2020/21 season, according to the announcement.


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