The BCHL has announced that it intends to start the 2020/’21 season on Dec. 1. (Damon James photo)

‘Everyone is very excited to get going’ says Surrey Eagles GM of BCHL’s planned return

BC Hockey League announces Dec. 1 start date for 2020/’21 season

The BC Hockey League has a return date in sight, which is good news for the Surrey Eagles and their fellow junior ‘A’ teams that have been sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, the BCHL announced that the 2020/’21 season is planned to start Dec. 1, pending approval from the provincial health office, and that individual teams have been given the option to open training camps as early as Sept. 8, which would give players an extended period to get their legs back underneath them after a months-long layoff.

In a news release, the league said it’s communications with the province and health officials suggested that waiting until December to hit the ice “gives us the best chance at ensuring we have an uninterrupted season, while also maximizing the amount of regular-season games we’ll be able to play,” said Chris Hebb, the BCHL commissioner and Semiahmoo Peninsula resident.

• READ ALSO: ‘I’m confident we’ll somehow make it happen,’ says Eagles owner as BCHL mulls return

Divisional exhibition games would be able to start once the province moves to Phase 3 of ViaSports’s return-to-play plan, the release notes. The December start date aligns with the NHL’s plan to start its 2020/’21 season, and also gives the BCHL the best opportunity to be able to play in front of fans, even if arenas have strict limits on the numbers of fans that can attend.

“The reality is that, for us to be able to operate, we need to have fans in our buildings,” said Graham Fraser, the chairman of the BCHL Board of Directors.

“It became clear from our discussions with the PHO that the best way to accomplish this would be to delay the start of our season to give them time to assess the effects of a potential second wave of COVID-19 during flu season.”

Nanaimo Clippers GM Tali Campbell told Black Press Media that league governors anticipate that by Dec. 1 they’ll be able to fill arenas to at least 50 per cent capacity.

Though the Dec. 1 start date is still months away, Surrey Eagles general manager Blaine Neufeld said he was excited to see a date and a plan put in place after months of uncertainty.

“There have been countless (phone) calls about what way to go… but things were always changing – some days were really good and you think maybe we’ll start on time, and then other days you’d think, ‘Wow, I don’t know if we’re ever gonna get going. The swings were crazy right at the start,” he said.

“Now we have this date of Dec. 1… and everyone is very excited to get going.”

The Eagles haven’t yet set a timeline for when they would open a training camp, Neufeld said, though he said the longer-than-usual training camp period could be good for all teams, even if some on-ice sessions are informal and only involve players currently in the area.

“I look at it like (Sept. 8) is the start of the off-season, and instead of guys training alone (in their home cities), there is an opportunity to work on skills with the team, and work on team concepts. It could be really good for player development,” he said.

“Coaches always complain they don’t get enough practice time during the season, so now you’ve got this two-month period to get the team ready to go.”

The Eagles – who advanced to the second round of BCHL playoffs last season before play was stopped due to the pandemic – are in a unique position of having most of last year’s roster return for 2020/’21. Neufeld suggested that familiarity will help them when a new season eventually begins.

As well, the layoff – which came just days after a dramatic Game 7 road win over the Chilliwack Chiefs – may actually spur the returning veterans forward this year, as they look to build on last season’s success.

“Their playoff (run) was cut short, but that experience really enabled our kids to believe that they can come out and contend for a championship this year.”



sports@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

BCHLSurrey Eagles

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two dead in COVID-19 outbreak at Delta Hospital

Total of 10 patients and four staff in one unit have tested positive for COVID-19: Fraser Health

Virtual challenge to benefit Delta-based guide dogs charity

Funds raised to help BC Alberta Guide Dogs provide people with free guide dogs, autism and PTSD service dogs

White Rock writer in running for $6,000 accolade

Joseph Kakwinokanasum to learn Oct. 1 if his story, Ray Says, wins CBC Nonfiction Prize

PHOTOS: Shots fired in Cloverdale Thursday night

Police say nobody was hurt after shooting at 19000-block of 64 Avenue

Surrey RCMP seek dash-cam footage after man injured in ‘targeted’ shooting

Police say they are holding a home in the 5900-block of 180th Street

B.C.’s top doctor thanks supporters after revealing threats over COVID-19 measures

Dr. Bonnie Henry says COVID-19 has caused some people to lash out in anger and frustration out of fear

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

Lumber hitting record high prices due to low supply and high demand

B.C.’s forest industry hasn’t been able to keep pace with the COVID-19 building boom

‘Monkey Beach’ supernatural film adaptation premiers at VIFF

Based on Kitamaat author Eden Robinson’s debut, mystical novel

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. VOTES 2020: Speculation tax misses speculators, B.C. Liberals say

Andrew Wilkinson, John Horgan clash over housing costs, solutions

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

NDP, Greens divided on pace of child care improvements in B.C. election campaign

NDP Leader John Horgan recommitted to $10-a-day child care and blamed the Greens for not supporting his efforts

Most Read