Recently, the BCHL announced that Port Alberni would serve as a regional pod in the league’s return to play plan. All four Vancouver Island-based teams will take part in this pod, with games at Weyerhaeuser Arena. Each team will play between 18 and 20 games beginning in April.
The return of games marks more than four months since the end of the exhibition season. The four Vancouver Island teams have been waiting patiently for the green light to play again as current restrictions only allowed for teams to practice with each other.
With this article, I want to recap where each team left off. This recap includes how each team did during last year’s regular season, playoffs, and last fall’s exhibition season.
The plan is for Island teams to stay in their home cities when they aren’t in Port Alberni playing games. They’ll stay with their billet families and travel from rink to rink. After every game, the teams will immediately return to their home cities and won’t stay overnight in hotels or spending time in communities.
The BCHL has hired a Chief Medical Officer, whose job is to oversee all COVID-19 safety protocols during the five-week season. Fans will not be allowed inside Weyerhaeuser Arena due to ongoing PHO restrictions.
Players have already started a 14-day quarantine period to prepare for the season in April.
Alberni Valley Bulldogs
— AVBulldogs (@AVBulldogs) March 12, 2021
The Bulldogs finished last season fourth place in the Island Division. Their final record was 26-28-2-0 and Alberni Valley was swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Nanaimo Clippers.
During the exhibition season, the Bulldogs finished fourth in the Coastal Conference. Their record was 6-7-1-1. They faced the Clippers in the Island Cup semi-finals but lost 8-2.
Having watched the Bulldogs games against Victoria, the game on Oct. 23 was a turning point for them. After that game, the Bulldogs didn’t lose another against the Grizzlies.
Look for Alberni Valley to make noise when the season begins. After all, it is the Bulldogs’ home ice everybody is playing on.
Cowichan Valley Capitals
— Cowichan Capitals (@cowichancaps) March 12, 2021
The Capitals finished last season with a record of 35-16-5-2, good enough for second place in the Island Division. The Capitals eliminated the Powell River Kings in five games in the first round. They never played a second round as the remainder of the playoffs were cancelled due to the pandemic.
During the exhibition season, the Capitals finished eighth place in the Coastal Conference with a record of 2-5-0-1 before the remainder of their games were cancelled.
After Oct. 24, the Capitals split off from their fellow Vancouver Island teams to join a two-team cohort with Powell River. Their games against the Kings never materialized because of travel restrictions between health regions.
According to Cowichan Valley Citizen writer Kevin Rothbauer, several Capitals players have opted out of the season.
The team has bolstered its roster with several players from the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League and has also taken players on loan from the Langley Rivermen. Expect the Capitals to try and improve on their exhibition record.
— Nanaimo Clippers (@ClippersHockey) March 12, 2021
The Nanaimo Clippers finished 2019-20 with a record of 37-17-2-2. That record earned them first place in the Island Division.
In the playoffs, the Clippers swept Alberni Valley in the first round and didn’t play a game in the second round as the remainder of the post-season was cancelled.
During the exhibition season, the Clippers finished first in the Coastal Conference. Their record was 11-5 and they were able to complete all of their scheduled games.
The Clippers emerged from the exhibition season as Island Cup champions. They defeated the Victoria Grizzlies 5-4 in the final game.
While the team may currently be for sale, they will still be a strong squad. I fully expect Nanaimo to compete for number one in the Port Alberni pod.
We have some great news!
HOCKEY IS BACK!!
— Victoria Grizzlies (@BCHLGrizzlies) March 12, 2021
The Victoria Grizzlies finished last season with a record of 24-33-1-0, fifth in the Island Division. The Grizzlies got swept in the first round by the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, who crossed over from the Interior Division.
During the exhibition season, the Grizzlies finished second in the Coastal Conference. Their overall record was 8-4-2-1 and Victoria did complete all of its scheduled exhibition games.
Compared to their record last season, the Grizzlies had a strong showing last fall. While Victoria didn’t win the Island Cup, the Grizz definitely challenged the Clippers’ supremacy.
The Grizzlies also rekindled their rivalry with the Bulldogs during the exhibition season, it’s something I wrote about in a recent article. Look for Victoria to use its new additions to flex its muscles against the other three pod teams.