As the country enjoyed Canada Day via online Zoom parties, it was another jammed packed month for the BCHL team in the Peach City and the league itself.
We know the league was shut down by now due to the coronavirus, but we had no plan or heard any news on how the BCHL will return to play until now.
The league announced this month that it plans to drop the puck December 1, of course, pending approval of the Provincial Health Office. “The PHO has indicated to us that waiting until December gives us the best chance at ensuring we have an uninterrupted season, while also maximizing the amount of regular-season games we’ll be able to play,” said BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb in the league’s official news release.
This gives the league ample time to work out any issues that may arise if a second wave of the virus strikes in November. The league still plans to have close to a full schedule even with a delayed start, which is excellent news for all junior hockey fans.
A late start to the 2020-21 season doesn’t mean a delay in training camp. The Vees announced that the club will be holding three camps in August as they begin to make preparations for the upcoming season. All three camps take place at the South Okanagan Events Centre. The coaching staff will look at the players’ skills and conditioning for the first two camps while the third camp will be finalizing the roster spot with an identification camp.
NEWS: The @GoBCHL has announced a tentative December 1st start to the 2020/21 regular season
— Penticton Vees (@PentictonVees) July 17, 2020
What the team will do after August is yet to be determined, but the league did say that training camps will be permitted to begin as early as September 8, which would be a very lengthy training and preseason schedule.
On the horizon
Vees coach Fred Harbinson was interviewed by James Miller from The Penticton Herald regarding the return of the BCHL.
“I think COVID is something that has literally touched everybody’s life. People have died; others have lost their jobs. I’m not putting our business ahead or behind anyone else’s. We’re dealing with families and kids who have a one-time shot through junior hockey. Sports bring a lot of enjoyment to people, especially during negative and challenging times. Sports, and just not hockey, help unite a community.”
The 2020-21 schedule is set to go well into May, which is when the Centennial Cup takes place. However, it can get tricky with Penticton as the 2021 host, which Harbinson address when speaking with Miller. “As of today, it’s still a go. We’re still meeting with Hockey Canada, and our fans will be the first to know if things change. It could go in May, it could be pushed back a month until June, or maybe this year everyone will just host their own provincial championship, and then we will host the tournament in 2022.”
Regardless of what happens with the Centennial Cup, it’s a good sign that junior hockey is thinking about playing again.
On the ice, It will be wild of time for Vees alumni Mat Robson who headed to Edmonton for the NHL restart for the Minnesota Wild. Robson played in Penticton in the 2016-17 season. He got into 49 games and finished with a goals-against-average of 1.94, a save percentage of .930, and six shutouts. In his one season, Robson lifted the Ryan Hatfield Trophy as Interior Division champions and the Fred Page Cup, while advancing to the semi-finals of the Centennial Cup.
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) July 11, 2020
On the trade front, the Vees acquired Fin Williams from the Prince George Spruce Kings in exchange for future considerations. The North Vancouver product suited up for the Spruce Kings in 44 games over the last two seasons while tallying 31 points. Williams also brings playoff experience to the Vees, he skated in the 2019 and 2020 BCHL postseasons for the Spruce Kings while also appearing in the 2019 Doyle Cup.
With less than a month left before the start of the three camps, it will be pleasant to see the Vees back in action as they take the ice at the SOEC.