The B.C. Hockey League is expected to announce today that the 2020-21 season will be delayed to Dec. 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A shortened regular season, from the normal 60 games, will likely be on offer.
The 2021 Centennial Cup Canadian Junior A championship tournament, currently scheduled for May in Penticton, will likely be pushed to June.
The 2020-21 regular season was originally to start in early October.
“The league has done a good job in showing respect to the situation that we are in,” said Victoria Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon.
“The league has a good plan. We are being cautious with the situation and responding to it. Safety is paramount. If we can start earlier, we will. It all depends on the public health authorities.”
B.C. guidelines ban gatherings of more than 50 people, so the BCHL cannot plan for having fans in attendance. Nobody, however, can anticipate what the rules will be in December.
Sources say the league is hoping for eventual socially distanced attendance of between 25 to 50 per cent of arena capacities.
“We are planning to give the players a season,” said Didmon.
Players will train until then obeying the regulations set by B.C. health authorities.
“We will train in a fashion that fits with the guidelines,” said Didmon.
“The players have to be of the mindset to be ready for whenever league play begins.”
The 2020 BCHL playoffs were cancelled mid-stride in March because of the pandemic and just as the Cowichan Valley Capitals and Nanaimo Clippers were readying to play the Island Division final. The Island Division of the BCHL consists of the Grizzlies, Capitals, Clippers, Alberni Valley Bulldogs and Powell River Kings.
The BCHL in 2019-20 surpassed its previous best number of players committed to U.S. collegiate NCAA Div. 1 programs with 166, compared to 151 in 2018-19.
The major-junior Western Hockey League, which includes the Victoria Royals, has announced a start date of Oct. 2 but has said socially-distanced attendance of up to 50 per cent capacity is needed to make that financially viable.