BCHL season decision likely expected today

One plan does not fit all.

The B.C. Division of the Western Hockey League, which includes the Victoria Royals, will begin play March 26 in two hubs located in Kelowna and Kamloops.

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It hasn’t been as smooth skating for the B.C. Hockey League, which includes five Island Division teams. A decision on a potential BCHL season could be announced today. The league had better have buttoned down its proposal, which includes five hubs.

“[The BCHL] plan is ­dispersed around the ­province in a plan that is slightly ­different from the WHL,” ­provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said this week.

“That is still in the consultation process and there have been a number of concerns identified — I’ll be blunt about that — that need to be addressed before that can happen safely.”

Time is growing short to have a hockey season.

“I know timing is an issue. Whether those [concerns] can be worked out or not, I am not clear,” said Henry.

The Junior A-level BCHL does not have the resources of the major-junior WHL.

The WHL is testing extensively while the BCHL plan does not include testing. The WHL B.C. Division teams will bubble the players and staff in hotels. The BCHL plan is to have players stay with their billet families and travel to their regional hubs for games. Fans are not allowed into the rinks in either league.

The issue of the BCHL and WHL came up during question period in the legislature on Wednesday during a discussion about the two leagues’ combined request for $9.5 million in provincial relief funding for the five WHL B.C. Division teams and 17 BCHL franchises.

“I absolutely share her view that the BCHL brings people together,” Premier John Horgan said in response to a question from interim opposition leader Shirley Bond.

“I have been in discussion with BCHL leadership. We are not yet in a position to make a final determination on the funds that have been requested. There’s going to be more news about both hockey leagues. They provide an economic benefit.”

Few teams in the province are in the position of the NHL Vancouver Canucks. The vast majority are gate-driven.

“We understand the issue,” said Horgan.

“We’ve been working on it for a number of months. I regrettably have to say stay tuned, at this point. We need to make sure we put our shoulder to the wheel, provide the resources to keep these organizations going until they can get back on their feet and get bums in seats.”

The WHL has not played since last March, when the last week of the 2019-20 regular season and playoffs were cancelled. The BCHL, whose 2020 playoffs were cancelled mid-stride last March, launched an extended pre-season campaign in the fall but has not played since that concluded on Nov. 17 with the Nanaimo Clippers edging the Victoria Grizzlies 5-4 at the Q Centre in the championship final of the exhibition Island Cup tournament.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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