The latest order from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus has certainly put a bigger wrench into BC Hockey League teams’ plans to have scrimmages – and even practices – as they get ready for the 2020-21 regular season.
Prior to the tighter restrictions put into place on December 2 and further clarified the next day by BC Hockey, teams were permitted to conduct what is called Phase 3 activities under viaSport’s restart plan.
The December 2 announcement by the PHO put all indoor and outdoor adult sports on hold while reverting youth sports back to Phase 2. The restrictions have since been extended to January 8, meaning the BCHL season won’t start until January 9 at the earliest.
Restrictions under Phase 2 place an emphasis on community-focused sport activities. These are activities that take place within the home community or teams where participants are members. Each BCHL player is a registered member of their team in the Hockey Canada Registry, so that’s the classification under which they fall.
It also outlines non-contact activities as “fundamental movement skills” and “modified training activities and drills”. The physical distancing measures during any such activities were also increased from two metres to three.
However, the most impactful aspect of the current Phase 2 guidelines on the BCHL is the fact that players over 18 on junior hockey teams are not allowed to participate with their teams because they are considered adults. As a result, only 16, 17, and 18-year-olds are able to take part in practices and skills sessions put on by their teams.
19 and 20 year olds are not allowed to skate with their teams in the BCHL after new public health orders.
Nanimao coach Darren Naylor is not happy : It is ridiculous, they live together, drive together to the rink but can not be on the ice together. It makes no sense.
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) December 4, 2020
19 and 20-year-old players are unable to be on the ice at all under the new guidelines because they are legally adults in British Columbia.
Who’s affected the most?
There are currently 414 total players on the extended training camp rosters of the 17 teams participating in the BCHL’s 2020-21 season as of this writing.
The Wenatchee Wild, who announced a hiatus from the league for this season last month due to the pandemic, doesn’t have its players included in the total.
Of the 414 rostered players, 194 of them are currently 19 or 20-years-old and affected by the order. It means that 46.9 percent of all BCHL players are unable to take the ice, even if a 16, 17, or 18-year-old teammate they billet with in the same home is able to practice.
On average, each team has 11 players who are born in either 2000 or 2001 and are legally adults.
The team impacted the least by the order is the expansion Cranbrook Bucks, who only have six 19 or 20-year-old players on their roster. Chilliwack, Langley, and Trail each have nine players of that age group.
The Alberni Valley Bulldogs are affected the most, as only nine players on their 25-player roster are able to participate in team-based activities. The other 16 are restricted from taking part. The Merritt Centennials have the next most 19 and 20-year-olds at 14.
It also doesn’t include Surrey Eagles defenseman Brett Bliss, who turns 19 on December 29.
Williams and Rogers are able to practice with the Express and Bucks respectively until the 15th, and upon turning 19, have to stop taking part.
The same goes for Bliss. He can take part in Phase 2 activities with his fellow under-19 Eagles teammates until his birthday on the 29th, at which time he’ll be an adult and not allowed to participate.
Nothing is carved in stone when it comes to the pandemic, and it’s very possible plans will change and then change again in the days and weeks ahead. But for now, there isn’t a single team in the BCHL able to have its entire roster of players participate in even a physically distanced practice.