The Port Moody Panthers have not played a competitive contest now since Nov. 7, 2020.
At that time, the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) had created cohorts for its 13 franchises as B.C. allowed for sports to host games with no fans and under strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
But just like most other organizations, sports went back to hosting non-contact practices and no travel outside their home communities given the pandemic's state in the province heading into winter.
Now, with COVID-19 transmission slightly fading day-by-day and vaccinations ramping up, the prospect of a season starting in the fall is becoming a possibility.
B.C.'s restart plan is about to enter Step Three on Canada Day (July 1).
If all goes well, Step Four would be implemented after the Labour Day weekend, in time for Panthers' general manager Brian Wiebe to see his off-season agenda come to fruition ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.
"We just can't wait to see fans from the Tri-Cities back in the Port Moody Arena to cheer on our players and enjoy a Saturday night of fantastic junior hockey," he said in an interview with Tri-City News.
However, in order to get to that threshold before the first puck-drop in what would be a 10-month gap between games, the Panthers are pleading with the public to not waver and do its part.
"We hope that people continue to follow the protocols and get both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so all sports can have as normal of a season as possible in the fall," said Wiebe.
"In the meantime, our returning players and new recruits are on the ice weekly in preparation for training camp in August."
As of this publication (June 26), the Port Moody-Anmore-Belcarra region of the Tri-Cities is at an 82% immunization rate in terms of eligible residents aged 12 years and older receiving their first of two COVID-19 vaccine jabs.
The Port Moody Panthers are hoping a new crop of rookies can bolster their performance and look to end a 10-year playoff absence, should a regular- and postseason actually take place.
Four Lower Mainland athletes have signed thus far with the hockey club going into the summer schedule, all from different hockey avenues:
- D Marcus Olsen = Burnaby, Okanagan Hockey Academy
- F Dong Eun Lee = Surrey, Delta Hockey Academy
- D Ryan Tong = Burnaby, Vancouver North West Hawks
- F Joshua Noh = West Vancouver, Greater Vancouver Canadians
Port Moody saw three graduating athletes last season, while three others made the jump to the Western Hockey League (WHL) when its respective hubs dropped the puck earlier this year.
Wiebe is confident his new recruiting class will bring their 'A' game to the 'B' level.
Registration is now open for the Panthers 2021 Identification Camp!— Port Moody Panthers Junior Hockey Club (@PJHLPanthers) June 1, 2021
📅: July 5 (goaltender session) / July 6 - 8 (skaters and select goaltenders)
📍: Planet Ice Delta
📝: https://t.co/cMoS73xpiN#PJHL | #PortMoody | @ThePJHL pic.twitter.com/BjaFDJikYh