There are a lot of smiles around the Chilliwack Coliseum today with news that the BCHL will be returning to the ice in early April.
There were times when Chiefs VP of Business Operations and league governor Barry Douglas didn’t think it was going to happen.
“There were definitely times when we felt we were up against an insurmountable block,” Douglas admitted. “But through the entire process our return-to-play taskforce referred to ourselves as return-to-play and not a return-to-quit taskforce. We always thought about leaving no stone unturned to make it happen.
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“It was a roller coaster though. Some days we thought there would be hockey and some days we didn’t, but we as a Chiefs organization maintained a can-do positive attitude hoping a best-case scenario was going to happen.”
After the Western Hockey League’s five B.C.-based teams got approval to play from the provincial health office 10 days ago, talks took on an extra level of urgency.
“Once our players knew the WHL was going, there was added pressure for us to get going too,” Douglas said. “The PHO was concerned about our ability to do this in a safe manner and follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s protocols. There was a lot of communication and everyone stayed on an even keel. Both parties were professional and both parties wanted the same goal at the end.”
Douglas credited BCHL commish Chris Hebb and executive director Steven Cocker for making it happen.
“We can’t stress enough how grateful we are to Chris and Steven for navigating us through it,” Douglas said. “It’s been a long haul, but we couldn’t be more excited with the result.”
The BCHL has said there will be a five-week schedule, with the league split into three or four team pods.
It’s not yet confirmed, but Douglas is hoping Chilliwack is selected to be a host city.
“It’s fair to say we want to be a pod,” he said. “If we are fortunate enough to have that, all of our games will be seen on HockeyTV and our rink board partners, social media partners and ice-graphic partners will be seen. There could still be some good value for our sponsors because of this decision.”
The pod system will mean a ton of games against Langley, Surrey and maybe Coquitlam — as it was before the pandemic shut things down — But Douglas said the Chiefs don’t care who they’re playing as long as they’re playing.
“Our players are just so excited to get back on the ice and have competitive, meaningful games.”
The five week schedule isn’t ideal, but ice comes out of many facilities in May and that’s all the BCHL could squeeze in.
“Hopefully getting in 20 or so games is a lot for our players to showcase themselves to scouts,” Douglas said. “I’m particularly overjoyed for our 20-year-old players who are going to have a chance to finish their junior A career playing games.”