The economic ramifications of COVID-19 have struck deep into the head office of B.C. Hockey, located in Saanichton.
Bill Greene, chair of the B.C. Hockey board of governors, announced more than 20 of the 30 staff have been let go.
“There is no hockey being played. We don’t know what else we can do. We can’t afford to keep them working,” said Greene.
“Unfortunately, COVID-19 forced us to make the difficult decision to reduce staffing at the office. Our staff of 30 has been reduced to under 10.”
Greene said staffing levels at the Saanichton head office are based on player registration numbers throughout the province and nobody knows what they will be in the fall and winter, or if youth minor hockey will even be played in 2020-21.
“We do not have an exact date when we can start and we don’t know what hockey in B.C. will look like in the next year. COVID-19 is forcing changes to all aspects of life. Hockey is no exception,” said Greene.
“We don’t even know if parents will be allowed in the stands. We are under the guidance of the provincial health authority. And also the regional health authorities. It could turn out that different regions in the province will open at different times and some quicker and some later than others.”
Each municipality could have its own re-opening dates for rinks.
“In many ways, our hands are tied by our arena partners,” said Nicki Reich, vice-president of the Victoria Minor Hockey Association.
“Different arenas might have different requirements.”
Despite the uncertainty, Reich said people remain hopeful and player registrations for her association for 2020-21 are “rolling in.”
Victoria Minor Hockey, which merged with Saanich Minor Hockey, had 832 players last season.
Greene said he knows how eager young players are to hear something concrete about the season.
“I know they are ready to throw down their electronics and jump onto the ice as soon as they are allowed,” he said.
The question is when.
Hockey Canada, meanwhile, sent an “open letter to Canadians” this week addressing that issue. It was signed by CEO Tom Renney, president Scott Smith and chair Michael Brind’Amour.
“As provinces and territories phase in a plan to reopen in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are questions about when hockey will return, and how it will look when it does,” the letter to Canadians reads.
“Hockey Canada and its members are diligently working on a multifaceted return-to-hockey plan that will happen when, and only when, provincial and territorial governments and health authorities deem it safe to do so. As the return-to-hockey plan progresses, it will do so at different speeds, and at different times, across the country, based on direction from health authorities. And the game will look different, that much we do know. We ask for patience.”
B.C. Hockey’s Greene reiterated the last point.
“We are all going to have to acknowledge that hockey will look different when it returns,” he said.
“COVID-19 is life altering for everybody and so much is out of our control.”
Meanwhile, in a non-COVID-19 move, Barry Petrachenko of Victoria has been let go after 20 years as CEO of B.C. Hockey.
“Barry did a lot of great things. We thought it was time to move in a different direction,” said Greene.