The BC Hockey League will hit the ice for a 2020/’21 season, even if public health orders to control transmission of COVID-19 won’t permit teams to allow fans in their arenas.
Friday, the league unveiled a back-up return-to-play plan that would allow teams to generate revenue to cover expenses by charging players fees, in addition to sponsorships and hoped-for government support.
But, commissioner Chris Hebb said, a pay-to-play model that is common in lower tiers of junior hockey, would only be implemented if the provincial health officer doesn’t approve the league’s request to allow its arenas to be filled to 25% capacity when the season is scheduled to begin Dec. 1.
“Our main objective is to play, no matter what,” Hebb said, adding teams need revenue from ticket sales to cover their operating expenses.
In July, the BCHL announced it would delay the start of the upcoming season to the beginning of December after it had to cancel last season’s playoffs at the end of the first round because of the public health crisis. But teams will be permitted to hold extended training camps with the possibility of regional exhibition games until then.
The Coquitlam Express, which finished last season atop the standings and had readily dispatched the Langley Rivermen in its first playoff series before the post-season was abruptly halted, opens its camp on Monday.
Hebb said the league is anticipating a truncated season in which teams will play games against only those other teams in its cohort of as many a four regional rivals. If teams rotate into another cohort, they’ll have to quarantine for 14 days.