The BC Hockey League has cancelled all exhibition games scheduled for this weekend after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry expanded restrictions on indoor sports activities to the entire province.
The Coquitlam Express, and three other teams based in Greater Vancouver — Surrey Eagles, Langley Rivermen and Chilliwack Chiefs — had already been confined to conducting only practices since Nov. 7, when Henry imposed stricter public health orders on the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health regions to try to temper a rising second wave of COVID-19 infections. On Thursday, she expanded those orders to every part of British Columbia until at least Dec. 7.
Among other things, the orders forbid people from travelling outside their community to play group sports and also ban spectators from sporting events.
In a statement posted to its social media feeds, the league said “we are seeking further clarification on how this affects us going forward.”
At the very least, the new rules are likely to put a wrench in the BCHL’s plan to begin its regular season schedule on Dec. 1. They also dash the hope commissioner Chris Hebb expressed earlier in the fall that teams could play in front of at least some fans as they rely on ticket sales to cover operating expenses.
To make up lost revenue, players and their families are being required to pay fees beyond covering billet expenses.
Friday, the BCHL Alumni Association announced a new player assistance fund to help offset some of that financial burden.
The fund, which was launched by former Victoria Grizzlies forward Madison Dias, and Jake Baker who played for four different BCHL teams before attending Northern Michigan University and then pro stops in the American Hockey League and the ECHL, is aiming to collect $50,000 through a GoFundMe page.
“We understand the difficulty that this pandemic has caused everyone,” Dias said in a statement. “BCHL players and their families are in a tough situation to make ends meet, while also trying to give their sons the best opportunity to further their hockey careers.”
Dias said besides allowing him to develop as a player, the BCHL also allowed him to secure an education at Cornell University. His LinkedIn profile says he’s now a manager of sales and business development for a Richmond software company.
“We all want to give back to the league and to the players in those communities that supported us over the years,” Dias said.
Port Moody Panthers also affected
The Pacific Junior Hockey League, that inlcudes the Port Moody Panthers, is also on the sidelines.
All 13 teams in the Tier II junior circuit are based in Metro Vancouver and have been confined to practices only since Henry's initial order on Nov. 7 to ban travel for group sports activities. Until then, the league had been playing games within small cohort groups in empty arenas.
The Panthers, grouped in a cohort with the Richmond Sockeyes and Grandview Steelers, were playing its home games at the Richmnd Olympic Oval as it tried to work out access to its dressing rooms at the Port Moody recreation complex.