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Powell River Kings GM comments on approved start to BCHL season

Chad van Diemen prepares roster for shortened schedule of games
LATE START: BC Hockey League teams have received approval from provincial health officer Bonnie Henry to begin a shortened 2020/2021 season around April 1. In the photo above, from the 2019/2020 regular season, Powell River Kings' forward Hunter McCoy [left] battles for puck possession with Vernon Vipers' winger Ben Helgeson at Hap Parker Arena in Powell River.

Powell River Kings hockey season will finally get underway, with the provincial health officer approving return to play for the BC Hockey League (BCHL).

The Kings will not be playing in Powell River. There will be five pod cities set up throughout the province; the Kings are expected to play in the Coquitlam pod, apart from their Island Division counterparts.

Kings general manager Chad van Diemen said logistics for the resumption of play are formidable.

“It’s swamped now; there’s a lot going on,” said van Diemen. “We’re just trying to figure out all of the details. There’s a lot of information, but yes, there will be a season, and right now, we are fully committed. It’s good news.”

Van Diemen said there are a lot of details to be handed out to the teams regarding what exactly the approved plan is with the public health office.

“It’s exciting, but busy for sure,” he added. “There’s a lot of phone calls, a lot of emails and a lot of Zoom meetings still to be had.”

All of the games will be played in buildings approved by the public health office. The other island division teams: Victoria Grizzlies, Nanaimo Clippers, Alberni Valley Bulldogs and Cowichan Valley Capitals, will play in the Island pod, to be located at Weyerhaeuser Arena in Port Alberni. Other pods are reported to be in Chilliwack, Penticton and Vernon.

Year has been tough on players, says GM

van Diemen said the resumption of the season is a great opportunity for all of the players. A number of the team’s older players have left the Kings to explore opportunities in other leagues so there is only one 20-year-old on the team. The GM said it has been a tough year for the players, emotionally and on other levels, so it is great to have this news and have the opportunity to play games.

“I’m excited for them to get the opportunity, for sure,” said van Diemen.

In the lead-up to the season, the Kings who are here have been practicing on a daily basis. The team had just received word that the ice is coming out in Powell River on March 17; it turns out the team’s last practice is March 13 because there is going to be a quarantine period for players. The Kings will be travelling to its pod city, so the timing couldn’t have been any better, according to van Diemen.

Players to gather in BCHL pod

Several players who have not been in Powell River will be joining the Kings in their pod city. The team has been going through and finalizing the roster, filling it out with players.

“We’ve talked to all of our players and families and we presented them with the information we have,” said van Diemen. “We have to get answers from all of the individuals who are able to be there. It’s a big commitment for the next seven weeks. You’re looking at a two-week quarantine and a five-week season so we need to know from all of our players if they are able to do this.”

van Diemen said he is confident the Kings will have a full roster.

There will be no exhibition games. League play, similar to the NHL this season, will begin immediately. It is hoped that the team can get some skating in once it’s settled in the hub city.

“We’re going to give it everything we’ve got and we’re going to do everything in our power to make this happen,” said van Diemen.

For people who want to follow the Kings’ games, they will have the opportunity to watch games on HockeyTV. A schedule will be drawn up so fans can arrange to watch the contests.

“It’s good news and we’re excited,” said van Diemen.

Even a truncated season will at least give graduating 20-year-old players a last hurrah in junior and also feature the 18-year-olds for the 2021 NHL draft and other players looking for US collegiate NCAA athletic scholarships.

“After months and months of hard work behind the scenes by the league’s return-to-play task force, we are pleased to make the announcement today that the BCHL will be back on the ice to play the 2020-21 season,” stated BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb in a media release. “This entire process has always been about our players and giving them the best chance to get back to playing games and showcasing their skills, and we have accomplished that today.”

The BCHL is a prime producer of talent for the US collegiate ranks and in 2019/2020 surpassed its previous best number of players committed to NCAA Division 1 programs with 166, compared with 151 in 2018/2019.