The BC Hockey League board of governors has unanimously approved a COVID-19 alternative plan to fulfill the 2020-21 season. The alternative will be implemented in the event that Provincial Health Office (PHO) regulations do not allow arena capacity that provides needed gate revenue for BCHL teams.
In the case that the original request for 25 per cent capacity in arenas by the scheduled Dec. 1 start date is not approved by the PHO, the league will move forward with a model of reduced games without fans and will rely on player fees along with sponsorship and government support to fund the season.
“Our main objective remains to play a season, no matter what, but our original goal of starting in December with 25 per cent capacity in our buildings is in jeopardy,” said Chairman of the BCHL Board of Governors Graham Fraser, in a news release. “This new scenario allows us to have a fall-back plan if that does not occur. Even if we end up going with the alternative, we may have the opportunity to introduce fans into the stands later in the season and into the playoffs, which would, in turn, reduce costs for the players and their families.”
The motion for the alternative scenario was passed by the BCHL Board of Governors on a conference call yesterday.
“The fact that we are prepared to play a season without fans does not mean we no longer require financial support from the government,” said Chris Hebb, Commissioner of the BCHL. “Player fees will give our teams the ability to survive, but our owners are preparing to take a financial hit to ensure we get to play regular-season games in 2020-21. If anything, this only increases our need for corporate and government support. For the first time in our 60-year league history, we’re asking for players to pay an amount beyond their billet fees. This is solely caused by COVID-19 and we plan on going back to business as usual next season.”
As per viaSPORT BC’s current regulations, the schedule will involve regional cohorts, meaning teams will be split into groups of four and will play amongst each other, with a 14-day quarantine period needed for a team to rotate into a new group.
“Our number one goal over the past six months has been to get our players back on the ice.” said league Executive Director Steven Cocker. “The board believes we presented a plan to safely have fans in the building and that remains our goal. In case the government does not allow for it, the league office and all 18 teams will work diligently to find ways to reduce player fees by way of funding and sponsorship. At the end of the day, we want to do right by our players, teams, our league and our fans and that means having a 2020-21 season.”
An official exhibition schedule will be released in the coming weeks.