To ensure the health and safety of student-athletes, the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) season will not begin its regular season any sooner than January 2021.
At last week’s annual general meeting, the Selkirk College Saints and other member teams decided that safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic require an approach that protects players and team personnel.
“We are working closely with BC Hockey, our member institutions, our home arenas and our travel partners to ensure we return to action safely when the current restrictions are lifted,” says BCIHL President Chris Munshaw. “We now know that these restrictions will prevent us from starting on time for the Fall Semester. With concerns over the health, safety and academic success of our student-athletes, each of our member teams agreed that January 15 is the earliest opportunity to kick off the regular season.”
The BCIHL membership approved a tentative 12-game regular season schedule for the winter term along with a modified playoff structure. Individual BCIHL teams are permitted to explore exhibition game opportunities for the Fall Semester within the boundaries of their institution, facility, and BC Hockey and Hockey Canada Return to Play protocols.
The decision to postpone play stings, but Saints’ head coach Dave Hnatiuk agrees a delay of formal league play was necessary. The team will now initiate an alternative sport model that allows student-athletes to develop, train and compete within public health guidelines.
“It’s a relief to be able to give our student-athletes an answer about what is going to happen in the first semester,” says Hnatiuk. “We now have some direction and we can adjust our plan for between now and January. This will provide us an opportunity to have more extensive off-ice training throughout the Fall Semester as it safely allows. We will get on the ice as much as we can, the workouts will continue and we can build towards the time when we can actually compete in league play.”
Since the 2019-2020 BCIHL season was canceled due to COVID-19 on March 12, just hours before the Saints were set to begin the playoffs against the Trinity Western University Spartans, Hnatiuk has been busy recruiting players for the upcoming season. Over the last few months, the head coach has been communicating with returning and new players on a regular basis to keep spirits high and focused on representing Selkirk College when league play returns.
“It’s mixed emotions for the players,” he says. “With seasons cancelled in March for all leagues, it was disappointing. But having a plan moving forward, we can start to get back into the hockey lifestyle. We all miss being on the ice and being together… these guys play hockey with passion and they can’t wait to get back at it.”
Selkirk College is currently finalizing its Fall 2020 academic plan that will provide in-person delivery of programs where possible and online where necessary. While training for the intended start of the season in January, student-athletes in all academic programs will have a chance to continue on educational pathways and actively participate in community where provincial guidelines allow.
Find out more about the Selkirk College Saints hockey program at: https://selkirk.ca/athletics/selkirksaints