Decision on BCHL season pushed into next week

The B.C. Hockey League is now metaphorically, if not ­effectively, into overtime.

No decision was reached Friday as to whether the league, with five teams in the Island Division, will have a 2021 season.

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In a statement late Friday, the league said: “The BCHL board of governors has agreed to push the vote on the status of the 2020-21 season to early next week due to ongoing dialogue between the league office and the office of the provincial health officer. The BCHL will provide an update next week.”

The league is dealing with concerns raised by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry about its submitted proposal to play, which includes five hub cities, at least one of which would be on the Island. That is in comparison to the proposal the provincial government approved this week regarding the B.C. Division of the Western Hockey League, which includes the Victoria Royals. The WHL’s B.C. plan has just two hubs, in Kelowna and Kamloops, with play beginning March 26.

“[The BCHL] plan is dispersed around the province in a plan that is slightly different from the WHL,” Henry noted. “There have been a number of concerns identified — I’ll be blunt about that — that need to be addressed before that can happen safely. I know timing is an issue. Whether those can be worked out or not, I am not clear.”

The Junior A-level BCHL operates on tighter budgets and does not have the more ample resources of the major-junior WHL, so is limited as to what it can do. 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. Because of that, the WHL and BCHL have submitted a joint proposal for $9.5 million of provincial pandemic relief funding to be shared by the five B.C. Division WHL teams and 17 BCHL clubs.

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.

ICE CHIPS: The Royals and rest of the WHL B.C. Division players begin self-quarantining today before reporting to Kelowna and Kamloops on March 13 … Play has begun in the WHL Central Division with the East Division and U.S. Division both in the process of starting up … The WHL said there have been no positive results among the 602 COVID-19 tests administered across the league from Feb. 27 through Friday.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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