Minor hockey on Island taking two-week break while higher leagues keep playing

Youth hockey on the Island has been put on ice in the other sense of the term.

The Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association announced cancellation of game play for two weeks in all 17 of its associations. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry did not expressly ban sports games outright with Thursday’s wide-ranging announcements. The move was made independently on Wednesday night.

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“All the 17 associations met and unanimously agreed to pause play for two weeks,” said Nicki Reich, president of the Victoria Minor Hockey Association.

“We have one confirmed case in [VIAHA] and, because of that, lots of families and teams expressed reservations.”

It’s a reset more than anything, she said. “We’re going to take two weeks to regroup in the hopes of returning after that to play the rest of the season,” said Reich.

Teams will be allowed to practise during the two-week break from game play.

Higher leagues, however, are less affected, other than a ban on spectators — previously up to 50 were allowed — and more restrictions on travel.

The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League had two games scheduled Thursday night, but the Nanaimo Bucaneers versus Oceanside Generals game was cancelled at the last moment with no explanation given. The Victoria Cougars game against the Westshore Wolves went ahead as planned. The VIJHL is only playing games within its respective South and North divisions, so travel is already being muted.

“Sports organizations had inter-regional travel, so they had their own defined regions, and that needs to stop,” said Henry.

“You can play your games within your own region only and there is no travel between different areas. The risk is people carpooling and staying overnight because some of the regions were such as from South Island to North Island and Powell River to the Mainland. That has to stop right now.”

The Vancouver Island Soccer League has been playing an Island-wide schedule and is now searching for clarification of the nebulous and confusing terms region and area. “I’ll be spending the next 24 hours looking into that,” said VISL executive director Vince Greco.

The league said it can rework the schedule up to the Dec. 7 date to which the new regulations apply.

“For instance, Bays United and ­Nanaimo are scheduled to play in the First Division this weekend. We can change that to a [Greater Victoria matchup] with Bays United playing Lakehill because those teams are in the same cohort,” said Greco.

The Island Division of the B.C. Hockey League was also playing an Island-wide schedule, but the preseason Island Cup tournament concluded this week. No further games were planned until the tentative BCHL regular season begins in December. The Victoria Royals are not scheduled to begin their Western Hockey League season until Jan. 8.

Henry also addressed why she has banned spectators from games until Dec. 7.

“We also have to pay attention to those pre-game and post-game off-the-field-of-play situations where people are coming together,” she said.

“That’s where the ban on spectators comes in because we have seen where people are getting together. It’s hard because we go into locker-rooms. We have to resist that temptation to go out with the guys after games. Those are the things we need to put aside right now.”

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