In the last decade, several BC Hockey League games were played at alternate venues. Sometimes, maintenance issues forced a team to vacate their home arena. This happened to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and they actually played two “home” games in a different arena.
Other times, BCHL teams took part in special events. One such event is the Bauer BCHL Showcase event in late September. Another is the BCHL Road Show, which saw two neutral site games played in the municipality of Kitimat. And then there are exceptional circumstances.
This season, exceptional circumstances forced the Coquitlam pod, which was planned for Poirier Sports and Leisure Centre, to be moved to Burnaby. All the Coquitlam pod games are being played at Scotia Barn instead.
With this article, I’ll talk about these regular-season games at non-traditional BCHL venues. I’ll talk about why they happened and what the result was. Before that, I want to lay down some ground rules.
The first rule regards exhibition games at non-BCHL venues. I won’t be including these games in this article as it’s common for them to occur during the exhibition season.
The second rule regards events like the BCHL Showcase. Its primary host, the Chilliwack Coliseum, has two ice surfaces under one roof. The Coliseum has hosted at least a portion of the Showcase since 2012.
Several Showcase games were played on both ice surfaces. These games count as regular-season games and because of that, I’m including those games in this article.
In November 2019, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs had to vacate Weyerhaeuser Arena because an improper weld on the arena’s ice plant resulted in an ammonia leak.
While the leak was being repaired, the Bulldogs played two home games outside their home city of Port Alberni. Their Nov. 17 game was moved to Rod Brind’Amour Arena in Campbell River and their Nov. 19 game was moved to Howie Meeker Arena in Parksville.
The Bulldogs returned to Weyerhaeuser Arena on Nov. 30 and lost 6-4 to the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
The BCHL Road Show
In February 2020, the BCHL Road Show was held in Kitimat. Both the Prince George Spruce Kings and Langley Rivermen played two neutral site games at Tamaktik Arena.
It was part of a weekend of activities as players and team staff took part in various events around the community. Also taking part were members of the Vancouver Canucks Alumni Association.
When it was announced, BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb talked about how the Road Show was a great opportunity to “reach hockey fans that might not be able to attend our games.” He called it “a great way for us to showcase our BCHL talent outside of our 17 local markets.”
The Bauer BCHL Showcase
Since 2012, the BCHL has put on an annual Showcase event. For one weekend in the fall, BCHL teams converge on one (or two locations) for a weekend of hockey.
Chilliwack has hosted the most Showcases. 2019 saw the Chiefs split hosting the event with Penticton. Before COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 edition of the event, Salmon Arm was set to be the host community.
The event is mainly an exposure opportunity for NCAA and National Hockey League scouts and other personnel. They get a front-row seat to watch the current crop of BCHL players. The games were also open to the public, with a festival-like atmosphere surrounding the event.
For the Chilliwack Showcases, games were played on both ice surfaces at the Chilliwack Coliseum.
In 2018, West Kelowna defeated Prince George 4-0, Nanaimo beat Vernon 4-3 and Wenatchee dumped Alberni Valley 5-1. Also, Salmon Arm doubled Victoria 6-3, Coquitlam edged Cowichan Valley 2-1, and Langley tripped Merritt 4-2.
In 2019, there was only one game on the secondary ice surface at the Chilliwack Coliseum as Alberni Valley topped Merritt 4-1.
The Coquitlam/Burnaby pod
When the BCHL announced its return-to-play plan in March, BCHLNetwork managing editor Brian Wiebe interviewed BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb. When asked about the pod locations, Hebb described several determining factors at play.
Every factor from arena availability to the geographic location was considered. While the other pods started in their planned cities, Coquitlam’s pod didn’t. Instead, they moved their pod location from Poirier Sport and Leisure Centre to Scotia Barn in Burnaby.
According to the Tri-City News, the ice at Poirier was removed for the upcoming lacrosse season. That, and the City of Coquitlam had concerns about access with the rink being close to a planned COVID-19 vaccination centre. Because of these reasons, all 30 games between the Express, Powell River Kings, and Surrey Eagles were moved to Scotia Barn.
Since no fans can attend games, there aren’t any attendance figures to release. Since the pod is underway, I won’t list all the scores. I’ll make one exception for a game between the Coquitlam Express and Surrey Eagles on Apr. 17. In that game, the Eagles defeated the Express 13-1.
Things will return to normal eventually. When that happens, games like those in the Coquitlam/Burnaby pod will be the exception instead of the norm.
It’s nice to know arenas like those in Campbell River and Parksville can step in when needed. I believe that other communities like Kitimat would love to host BCHL games. I’m also certain Salmon Arm will get its chance to host the BCHL Showcase.
By the way, the Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm has two ice surfaces like the Chilliwack Coliseum, so if they wanted to use both ice surfaces for games in a future Showcase, the BCHL definitely could.