New health orders will affect hockey teams across the West Kootenay.
On Thursday, Nov. 19, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced new COVID 19 protocols that prevents teams from travelling outside of their communities.
Locally, not only have the BCHL and Trail Smoke Eaters games all been cancelled until Dec. 7, so have the KIJHL and all the Greater Trail minor hockey rep teams and house league games scheduled outside the community.
“All rep games have been cancelled for now,” said GTMHA vice president Jim Maniago. “All West Kootenay (Minor Hockey Association) games have also been cancelled. Everyone is regrouping and looking to play other teams within our organization but some have to wait 14 days to remove themselves from the cohort they’ve already played in.”
Divisions U13 and under can play against each other because there are more local teams, explained Maniago. But for U15 and U18 there is only one Trail team in those divisions, so there is still some things to figure out, but our rep teams will be relegated to practice only.
The new order also makes masks mandatory indoors, while suspending all in-person worship services and community and social events, along with high-intensity group fitness, such as interval training, hot yoga and spin classes.
The BCHL made a statement on Monday, clarifying that the rest of the pre-season games are cancelled, yet, it plans to resume play on Dec. 8, once the current PHO restriction ends.
“If the Provincial Health Office extends their current restrictions beyond Dec. 7, we have the option of moving the start date to after the holidays, but it is our intention to begin play once the current order expires,” said BCHL Commissioner Chris Hebb. “Our objective from the beginning, when we worked out our COVID-19 Safety Plan with the PHO, was to allow our players to have a season, but we want to make sure it is under the safest conditions possible.”
The KIJHL did make a statement on Saturday saying, “In light of the new parameters outlined on Friday evening by viaSport, which include restrictions concerning travel between different communities, the KIJHL will pause all regular season game play beginning Saturday, November 21. Under the current Provincial Health Order, competition between teams cannot resume until Monday, December 8 at the earliest.”
Teams like the Castlegar Rebels, Grand Forks Border Bruins and Nelson Leafs are able to practice but must continue to follow strict protocols of the PHO and viaSport’s Phase 3 return to play guidelines.
The KIJHL originally announced that they could continue to play, under the impression that the region meant the Interior Health Region, of which all 17 teams reside in. However, further clarification resulted in the suspension of league play and travel.
“We recognize that circumstances can change quickly, and we will update our plans as soon as new information becomes available,” said the release. “The KIJHL appreciates the patience and support of our fans, volunteers, billet families and sponsors as we navigate this process.”
The BCHL Alumni Association also announced on Friday the creation of a new player assistance fund to offset some of the financial burden players and families have endured due to the new COVID requirements.
The fund was launched on a GoFundMe page by former Victoria Grizzly forwards Madison Dias and Jake Baker, an alumnus of four different BCHL teams.
“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.”
“We all want to give back to the league and to the players in those communities that supported us over the years.”