On the eve of puck drop for the second round of BC Hockey League playoffs, competing teams – including the Surrey Eagles – are preparing to play despite ongoing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 virus.
On Thursday morning, Eagles general manager Blaine Neufeld told Peace Arch News that it was a ‘status quo’ situation as his team got set to take on the Coquitlam Express in Game 1 of their series Friday night in Coquitlam.
However, he added, the team and the league was prepared to follow the lead of government and health officials, should any recommendations or edicts come in the meantime.
“This is something that is on a global scale and it’s going to affect everybody… but I’m not a doctor, so what we’ll do is we’ll defer to the higher-ups… in the B.C. government, and then go down the chain to Hockey Canada and BC Hockey, and follow whatever guidelines they want to put in place for us,” Neufeld said.
“We’re obviously willing to follow suit with whatever they decide, but… you just have to sit and wait. Obviously, the second round is on the cusp of beginning, but we want to do what’s right not only for our (players), but for our fans and the general public.
“Personally, my number-one concern would be for fans in an older demographic who enjoy our games, because we know they’re more (susceptible) to the virus… I wouldn’t ever want to put someone in a position where by attending a game, they’re being put in harm’s way.”
Surrey advanced to the second round after a Game 7 win in Round 1 Sunday against the Chilliwack Chiefs.
Reached by email at noon on Thursday, Jesse Adamson, co-ordinator of content services for the BCHL, told PAN that the league is “still discussing next steps with Hockey Canada and the (Canadian Junior Hockey League” and a statement was expected later in the day.
The BCHL did not immediately respond to a request for comment on COVID-19 by mid-morning Thursday.
On Wednesday, BC Hockey released a statement that said the organization is in daily communication with Hockey Canada, and officials are “monitoring updates, recommendations and warnings that may be issued by the Government of BC and Government of Canada.”
“The Public Health Agency of Canada has assessed the public health risk to Canadians as low and recommends assessing the risk from a specific situation or event on a case-by-case basis,” the release notes. “Currently the Government of BC also identifies the risk to BC residents as low.”
For its member organizations, BC Hockey also listed recommendations that should be taken in order to help curtail the spread of the virus, from hand-washing to not sharing water bottles.
Earlier this week, the NBA suspended its regular season, and Major League Soccer and the National Hockey League, among others, quickly followed suit. The junior ‘A’ United States Hockey League also suspended its season and playoffs on Thursday morning.
The Western Hockey League – which includes the Langley-based Vancouver Giants – announced Thursday it was still weighing its options, with the league’s board of governors set to discuss the next steps today.
In Washington state, as well as Santa Clara County in California, law-makers have banned all gatherings of more than 250 and 1,000 people, respectively, which throws many sporting events in flux.
Overseas, professional hockey leagues in Italy, Germany and Austria – among other countries – have already cancelled the rest of their seasons and playoffs.
Elsewhere in B.C. , the junior ‘B’ Vancouver Junior Hockey League has postponed the start of a playoff series between the Campbell River Storm and Oceanside Generals, citing an ongoing “health situation” involving COVID-19. The series is currently set to begin Saturday.
Neither staff nor players from either team has tested positive for the virus, though “several players were self-isolating for influenza-like symptoms on the recommendation of public health officials,” BC Hockey CEO Barry Petrachenko told Black Press Media earlier this week.
Neufeld said there were no Eagles players or staff members with symptoms of COVID-19.
– with files from the Campbell River Mirror