In a media release appearing on the league's website, the BC Hockey League announced Friday that it is planning to start the 2020-21 regular season on Dec. 1, pending approval from the Provincial Health Office (PHO).
“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 the media release.
“The PHO 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 BCHL said its 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.
“The reality is that, for us to be able to operate, we need to have fans in our buildings,” said Chairman of the BCHL Board of Directors Graham Fraser.
“It became clear from our discussions with the PHO that the best way to accomplish this would be to delay the start of our season to give them time to assess the effects of a potential second wave of COVID-19 during flu season.”
The BCHL said 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 BC’s Return to Play model, exhibition competition with other BCHL teams will be expanded in-region.
The BCHL said training camps will be permitted to begin as early as Sep. 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.
“The BCHL’s Return to Play Task Force feels that the extended training camp model will give our players an opportunity to stay engaged and continue to develop their game in a safe environment,” said BCHL Executive Director Steven Cocker. “Our teams will be providing on-ice and off-ice training resources to continue aiding players to achieve their hockey and education goals and to make sure they are ready to go when the season starts.”
The extended training camps will strictly 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.
Last month the KIJHL announced following its annual general meeting the league was looking forward to getting back on the ice and are working towards a planned regular season start date of October 2nd, 2020.