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KIJHL season set for delayed start, three teams, including Beaver Valley, opting out

COVID-19 has turned the sports world upside down, including the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, seen here in action against Nelson Leafs, deciding, along with 100 Mile House and Spokane, not to play in the upcoming KIJHL 2020-21 campaign. — The Nelson Daily photo

The always-entertaining, hard-fought Murdoch Division rivalry between Leafs and Nitehawks is being put on hold for at least one season after the Beaver Valley franchise joined teams from Spokane and 100 Mile House opting out of the 2020-21 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season.

KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois made the announcement Thursday in an emailed media release.

“The boards of the 100 Mile House Wranglers and Beaver Valley Nitehawks have made the difficult decision to go dark for the year due to the financial impact and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, and we respect their decisions,” said KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois.

“The situation in Spokane is unfortunate because the Braves were fully committed to competing in their 50th KIJHL season, but ultimately it was determined between the club and league to suspend operations.”

Dubois said the decision by the three teams, including the franchise in Beaver Valley, came after the league announced its return-to-play plans.

The KIJHL is planning to start the upcoming seasonon Friday, November 13th with 17 teams participating in a 30-game regular season schedule. 

Dubois said teams had a week to confirm status for the upcoming season.

“We’re excited to be able to confirm a start date and season format as we solidify our preparations to drop the puck in November,” says Dubois.

“The current restrictions on sport have presented a number of difficult, but necessary hurdles as we all work towards being able to provide a safe and healthy environment for our players, staff, volunteers and fans.”

The KIJHL said current provincial government guidelines state that no more than 50 people can be present in an arena, including players, coaches and officials, making it impossible to have fans in our buildings. KIJHL teams have had to plan for a season that will begin without spectators. 

“There have been, and continue to be, a number of circumstances that have put significant financial pressure on our clubs, but our goal throughout this process has been to do everything within our control to ensure that KIJHL hockey can return safely this fall,” says Dubois.

“Keeping on that track has required a great deal of patience, flexibility and creativity from our member clubs. I’m very appreciative of all the work that’s been put in by so many around our league to get us to this point.”

Dubois said this has been a trying past off-season for the league, one that was extended when COVID-19 pandemic forced the executive to cancel season during the second round of the KIJHL playoffs in March.

Due to provincial health regulations and sport-specific protocols put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this KIJHL season will look different from others. 

Rather than competing in the league’s four traditional divisions, member clubs will play in cohorts consisting of a maximum of four teams. The teams within each cohort will change at various points over three stages, with the regular season ending Saturday, February 26th.

The 2021 postseason format for the Teck Cup will be announced at a later date.

With the delayed season start date, KIJHL said teams have the option of holding extended development camps to help their players prepare for the season in a structured team environment.

These camps may begin immediately under Viasport’s Phase 3 “Return to Play” guidelines.

With the format and structure of the 2020/21 regular season now confirmed, the league will now begin development of its schedule, which will be released on September 25th.