BCHL delays season to Dec. 1

It will be a while before the Coquitlam Express and other BC Hockey League teams play games again.

Friday, the league set Dec. 1 as a tentative start date to its 2020/’21 season, pending approval from the provincial health office.

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Commissioner Chris Hebb said the late start to the season gives the league its best chance to proceed uninterrupted, “while also maximizing the amount of regular season games we’ll be able to play.”

The BCHL’s 2019/’20 season was cancelled last March after the first round of the league playoffs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Graham Fraser, the chair of the league’s board of directors, said the late start will also likely allow teams to play in front of fans.

“The reality is that, for us to be able to operate, we need to have fans in our buildings,” Fraser said.

While competitive games have been delayed, teams will be able to open training camps as soon as Sept. 8 that could run through November, provided they conform to any restrictions on large gatherings in place. Currently those limit the number of people on the ice and in the stands to 50.

BCHL executive director Steven Cocker said the extended training camp, with the possibility of some exhibition games once the province moves into the third phase of its return to play protocol, will ensure teams and players are ready to play when the competitive schedule starts.

That schedule is still be worked on, as are health and safety protocols for the arenas when they’re opened to fans again.

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