Less than two weeks after announcing that the BC Hockey League would look to the provincial government for help during the COVID-19 pandemic, commissioner Chris Hebb has come out swinging against rumours suggesting the league is in danger of not returning next season.
In a May 4 news release, Hebb – a Semiahmoo Peninsula resident and longtime sports-industry executive – said that conversations between the junior ‘A’ league, which includes the Surrey Eagles, and the government “have been positive so far and are ongoing.”
He also reiterated that the league’s future was not in question.
“This call for financial support has also, unfortunately, led to some talk at various levels that the BC Hockey League is somehow in danger of not returning next season. This is entirely false,” he said.
“As we’ve mentioned in previous communications, the BCHL will be back on the ice as soon as we get the go-ahead from Hockey Canada and the provincial health authorities.
“The idea behind our call for financial support is to address the losses that our teams have incurred before they become a major problem down the road. Like everyone else, we eagerly await the day that we can return to the ice in a safe manner.”
In an interview with Peace Arch News last month, Hebb said the decision to reach out to the government was a “pro-active” move so the league and its teams can address losses already incurred, and before they become a potentially bigger problem.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, teams across the league have had to cancel or postpone spring camps which help fund teams throughout the off-season and beyond.
“It hurts a lot of the teams – all that (off-season) revenue is gone,” Surrey Eagles owner Chuck Westgard told PAN in March.
Hebb’s most recent comments came just two days after Penticton Vees head coach Fred Harbinson took to Twitter to quash the same rumours, which he insinuated were being started by those in rival junior hockey leagues in an attempt to recruit players away from the BCHL.
“Attention advisors, scouts, coaches, No need to call and ask if the BCHL is planning to play this fall – WE ARE!” he wrote, adding that “leagues or teams that tell you they know the exact start date are simply lying.”
In the May 4 release, Hebb said the league continues to have discussions with Hockey Canada and the Canadian Junior Hockey League every two weeks with regard to the pandemic and how to best move forward.
“Although there is no set timeline at this moment, we expect to have a clearer picture of where things are headed later this month,” he said.