BC Hockey League will hit the ice for a 2020/2021 season, even if public health orders to control transmission of COVID-19 won’t permit teams to allow fans in their arenas.
The league unveiled a back-up return-to-play plan on September 11 that would allow teams to generate revenue to cover expenses by charging players fees, in addition to sponsorships and hoped-for government support.
But, commissioner Chris Hebb said, a pay-to-play model that is common in lower tiers of junior hockey, would only be implemented if the provincial health officer doesn’t approve the league’s request to allow its arenas to be filled to 25 per cent capacity when the season is scheduled to begin December 1.
“Our main objective is to play, no matter what,” said Hebb, adding teams need revenue from ticket sales to cover their operating expenses.
In July, the BCHL announced it would delay the start of the upcoming season to the beginning of December after it had to cancel last season’s playoffs at the end of the first round because of the public health crisis. But teams will be permitted to hold extended training camps with the possibility of regional exhibition games until then.
Hebb said the league is anticipating a truncated season in which teams will play games against only teams in its cohort of as many as four regional rivals. If teams rotate into another cohort, they’ll have to quarantine for 14 days.
Powell River Kings general manager Chad van Diemen said he expects a training camp to start in Powell River later this month.