BC Hockey League players – including those on the Surrey Eagles – may have to pay to play this upcoming season, as the junior ‘A’ circuit searches for ways to stay afloat during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday, the league announced an alternative scenario for the 2020-‘21 season, which would be implemented in the event that provincial health regulations “do not allow arena capacity that provides needed gate revenue for BCHL teams.”
The league’s original request was for 25 per cent arena capacity to be allowed by the scheduled Dec. 1 start date, a news release notes.
However, if fans are not allowed in the arenas, the league’s alternative scenario would rely on player fees, sponsorship and government support in order to fund the season. Normally, players do not pay to play in the BCHL, aside from billet fees.
In the news release, BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb – a Semiahmoo Peninsula resident – admitted that even under the alternative scenario, franchise owners are “preparing to take a financial hit to ensure we get to play regular-season games.”
The motion to approve the alternative scenario was approved by the league’s board of governors on a conference call Sept. 10.
“Our main objective remains to play a season, no matter what, but our original goal of starting in December with 25 per cent capacity in our buildings is in jeopardy,” said Graham Fraser, chairman of the BCHL’s board of governors.
“This new scenario allows us to have a fall-back plan if that does not occur. Even if we end up going with the alternative, we may have the opportunity to introduce fans into the stands later in the season and into the playoffs, which would, in turn, reduce costs for the players and their families.”
Hebb also restated the league’s position that financial assistance from the government would be integral to the BCHL’s sustainability, regardless of whether there are fans in seats Dec. 1 or not.
“If anything, this only increases our need for corporate and government support. For the first time in our 60-year league history, we’re asking for players to pay an amount beyond their billet fees. This is solely caused by COVID-19 and we plan on going back to business as usual next season,” he said.
In June, the BCHL announced it was mulling different options for the season, and in mid-July made the announcement that it would aim to hit the ice in December and could be preceded by weeks-long training sessions.
An official exhibition schedule will be “released in the coming weeks” the league noted Friday.