BC Hockey League commissioner Chris Hebb says the league is still on track to begin regular-season play in early December. (BCHL photo)

BC Hockey League commissioner Chris Hebb says the league is still on track to begin regular-season play in early December. (BCHL photo)

BCHL still on track to begin regular season in December

Commish hopeful that league can “slide right into the regular season” after successful preseason

The BC Hockey League is still on track to begin regular-season play in early December, according to league commissioner Chris Hebb.

Last week, Hebb – a longtime Semiahmoo Peninsula resident and former executive with both the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs – told Peace Arch News that after the league’s return-to-play plan was approved by a number of governing bodies, including the provincial health authority, the league’s return has largely gone according to plan.

Unlike some junior-hockey teams in B.C. that have not yet received approval to play in their home rinks due to municipal-enforced COVID-19 restrictions, Hebb said all BCHL teams are practising and playing exhibition games in their own facilities.

As well, Hebb said he was “not aware of any teams” that are having to put their gear on either at home or in the parking lots of their arenas, as has been the case for both minor and junior hockey teams in some B.C. cities.

“Everybody is in their own rinks. The issue is that there are no fans, and there are limitations on the number of people in the rink, based on the province’s mass-gathering order (of 50 people or less),” he said.

“Some rinks are allowing more people than others, but that’s a decision at the municipal level. But we’re all playing.”

A day after Hebb spoke to PAN, the league announced the cancellation of two weekend exhibition games between Lower Mainland teams after one member of the Surrey Eagles tested positive for COVID-19. However, follow-up tests of all players and team staff came back negative, leading the league to determine it was an “isolated incident.”

The unnamed player has been in quarantine since testing positive, and “is doing very well,” Eagles general manager Blaine Neufeld told PAN earlier this week.

The positive test did not affect any team’s exhibition games beyond that one weekend, and has not affected the league’s plans moving forward.

“We put together a return-to-play task force back in April or May, and we’ve had conversations with Hockey Canada, the CJHL, BC Hockey, the provincial health office, ViaSport.… We arrived at a workable plan for us to come back,” Hebb said.

“And we feel like if we do a good job through this exhibition schedule, we’ll just slide right into the regular season with very little in the way of issues.”

Though there have been instances in recent months, most notably on social media, in which some members of the league have criticized aspects of the provincial and federal handling of the COVID-19 pandemic – everything from suggestions that the Canada/U.S. border be opened immediately to anti-mask/lock-down sentiment – Hebb said the entire league, from owners on down, is on board with the league’s health-and-safety plan that has been put in place.

“Our return-to-play task force has received full endorsement from our board on our plan. There may be some owners who have personal opinions, but as members of the BCHL, everyone is aligned on this,” Hebb said.

“They’re all on board.”

The new rules include full face-shields for players and masks for coaches on the bench.

“(Masks for coaches) was a recommendation, it wasn’t mandatory, but we’re being extremely responsible,” Hebb said.

One hurdle the BCHL hasn’t been able to overcome is the inclusion of the Washington-based Wenatchee Wild into their 2020-21 schedule. The Wild won’t be able to compete until the border is open, Hebb said.

“That’s the tough part of all this,” he said.

The recent news that new rapid-testing procedures could potentially reduce or eliminate quarantine times for travellers has given Hebb hope that at some point, Wenatchee could return to the fold.

“Right now, the only way we can see Wenatchee taking part in the BCHL this year is with the border getting reopened. But you never know, we could have a vaccine. Also, we just heard about the rapid-testing that the government is doing… maybe they implement that at the borders, which would allow Wenatchee to get back in the mix.”

Should anything change with regard to travel between the U.S. and Canada during the regular season, Hebb said the league would adjust on the fly to get the Wild onto the schedule.

“We’ll invite them in and re-jig the schedule if it’s feasible. We’ll address that if the border opens,” he said.



sports@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

hockey

Just Posted

Parksville’s French Creek Harbour experienced a diesel spill on Nov. 23 after a barge and fishing vessel collided. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Coast Guard cleans up diesel spill in Parksville’s French Creek Harbour

Barge carrying fuel truck collides with fishing vessel

Tourists are being asked to postpone their non-essential trips to Tofino as COVID-19 cases rise across Vancouver Island, but at least one accommodation provider is offering conflicting messaging. (Westerly file photo)
Victoria woman says Tofino Airbnb host encouraged travel despite provincial restrictions

“The only way I would get a refund is if she would be able to rebook the suite for that weekend.”

Randy Brown, owner of Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue, has five trailers and a motorhome at the back of his property that he is renting to people who had been previously homeless. He wants to put 15 trailers on his property, hooked up to city sewer and water and BC Hydro. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Another ‘deplorable’ Port Alberni property slapped with remediation order

Wintergreen Apartments and the impromptu trailer park in its grounds attract city attention

A Nanaimo driver was sentenced Monday for fatally striking a high school student with his vehicle in 2019. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo driver sentenced after motor vehicle incident that killed teen last year

Brandon Geoffrey Murdoch fined and prohibited from driving for two years

Nikita, a four-year-old German Shepherd that was attacked by a buck in a backyard in Esquimalt Sunday is lucky the injury wasn't more severe. (Photo contributed by Suzette Goldsworthy)
Esquimalt dog owner issues alert after deer injures German shepherd

Nikita needed stitches after an early morning encounter

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Alberni man gets four years for multiple sex assault charges

Colin Robert Hall was found guilty in the Port Alberni Law Courts

The suspect is described as approximately 20-25 years old, between 5’3 to 5’4, with dark hair. He was wearing black Adidas pants, white shoes, and a puffy grey jacket. Photo supplied
Suspected sought in attempted robbery in Courtenay

Investigators from the Comox Valley RCMP Major Crime Unit investigating

Stock photo
Senior from Gibsons caught viewing child porn sentenced to 10 months

74-year-old pleaded guilty after police seized 1,500-2,500 images

Victoria police are asking for help locating Jordan Doddridge who is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
VicPD seek help locating man wanted on Canada-wide warrant

Jordan Doddridge has an extensive criminal history including violent offences

Most Read