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

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

Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man convicted of assault, unlawfully confining woman pregnant with his child loses court appeal

Victim tells court he drove her to Guildford parking lot after he’d ‘grabbed’ her neck and she fainted

Peter and Stephanie Chung. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey philanthropists presenting $285K in scholarships on Saturday

Drs. Peter and Stephanie Chung over the past nine years have awarded more than 500 students, in memory of their son Joseph

North Surrey Minor Football players in action. The club is among Surrey-area recipients of the B.C. government’s Local Sport Relief Fund. (File photo)
COVID ‘relief’ funding for some sports groups in Surrey, White Rock, Delta

‘Without financial support, these clubs are at risk of closure,’ says B.C. government

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

Fossils found the prove the existence of an ancient Taiwanese worm as long as two metres

Most Read