B.C. Hockey League clubs have been sent back to their dressing rooms to continue awaiting the start of the regular season.
The league announced Tuesday, on what was to have been the start of the 2020-21 campaign, that it has now postponed puck drops until the new year because of the recent extension of provincial health orders to Jan. 8.
“For the past nine months, the board of governors, the league office and the Return-to-Play Task Force have done everything possible to do right by our players and the public,” BCHL chairman Graham Fraser said in a press release.
“Under our PHO-approved COVID-19 safety plan, we successfully trained and played exhibition games from September to November, completing 90 (regional exhibition) games without a transmission, but the current restrictions will not allow us to start our regular season in December.
“We remain committed to exploring every option available to us to start our season safely and as soon as possible, including presenting the concept of a BCHL hub. We look forward to getting things going again in January with all of our players back on the ice.”
Most problematic for the BCHL is a rule that bans people 19 and older from participating in team activities like practices, while those 18 and under can participate in team activities. At present, about half of all BCHL players are 19 and over.
“While the current restrictions only directly affect athletes age 19 and up, there are unintended consequences for our younger players as well,” BCHL executive director Steven Cocker said in the release.
“Although they are still allowed on the ice, the fact remains that half of their teammates are not, which essentially means their teams and the league are forced to pause operations until restrictions are lifted.”
The league will reassess its options after Jan. 8, when the extended health orders are due to expire.
Just two COVID-19 cases have been reported among the 18 BCHL clubs: the Penticton Vees and Surrey Eagles, which each had just a single player test positive.
The league’s only U.S. team, based in Wenatchee, Wash., announced in November it would sit out the season due to travel restrictions.