Nothing indicates the transition from one hockey season to the next more than the release of the new schedule. Recently the BCHL released its 54-game regular season schedule for each team in the 2021-22 season.
This year the BCHL has moved from a three-division league to a two-conference league. The former Mainland and Coastal Divisions have merged into the Coastal Conference with nine teams.
The Interior Conference has grown by two teams as the Prince George Spruce Kings switch from the Mainland Division to the Interior, and the addition of the Cranbrook Bucks rounds it out.
The schedule is unbalanced this season as the league eliminates some of the heavy travel and costs incurred by teams playing every club on the road at least once. The league is minimizing the dreaded three-games-in-three-days scheduling also. Regardless, the schedule does have unique challenges for each team within it.
Express vs. Coastal Conference
This season, the Express play opponents from the Coastal conference 44 times. It plays its long-time Mainland Division rivals from Chilliwack, Surrey, and Langley an astounding eight times each.
Although not official, it looks like two of the games against the Surrey Eagles are earmarked for the BCHL Road Show. Tentatively taking place on the Feb. 19-20 weekend, these games comprise a home and an away game for each team.
The Express has its traditional Halloween matinee game against the Langley Rivermen on Sunday, Oct. 31 as well. A winning record against these former Mainland Division foes will go a long way in determining playoff positioning at the end of the season.
Four games against each of the former Island Division clubs in Nanaimo, Alberni Valley, Cowichan Valley, Victoria, and Powell River round out the schedule versus the Coastal Conference. The club’s Friday, Oct. 22 tilt versus the Nanaimo Clippers at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack is a home game for the Express.
As in the past, any Sunday game between the Express and a Vancouver Island-based team has an early start time to accommodate the road team’s ferry ride home.
TRI-CITY NEWS: Coquitlam Express open BCHL Season on Oct. 8https://t.co/X50brLdLMT
— Coquitlam Express (@BCHLExpress) June 10, 2021
Express vs. Interior Conference
The Express matches up against Interior Conference teams for a total of 10 games. Coquitlam plays each team once, with the exception of its expansion cousin Salmon Arm Silverbacks, which it plays twice.
Coquitlam hosts five Interior teams at the Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex this season. Salmon Arm, Trail, Wenatchee, Penticton, and West Kelowna all travel to Coquitlam for games at the Pond on Poirier.
In turn, the Express don’t visit Trail, Wenatchee, Penticton, and West Kelowna. Trips to Cranbrook, Vernon, Prince George, and Merritt are on the slate. The road game against Salmon Arm is on Wednesday, Oct. 20 at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack.
The Express plays the Langley Rivermen three consecutive times – on Oct. 31, Nov. 2, and Nov. 5.
Coquitlam has a season-high six-game homestand in late January and early February that includes three games versus Chilliwack as well as visits from Penticton, Cowichan Valley, and Victoria.
A six-game road trip spans two weekends in early December including a journey to Vernon to play the Vipers and the team’s inaugural trip to Cranbrook to play the Bucks at Western Financial Place.
Long-distance road trips
A pair of weekends in November and December are marred by back-to-back games with considerable distance between cities.
The Express plays in Merritt against the Centennials on Friday, Nov. 12, and then has the pleasure of a six-hour bus ride north to Prince George to play the Spruce Kings on Saturday, Nov. 13.
Following its tilt against the Vipers in Vernon on Saturday, Dec. 4, the team faces the prospect of snow on the Crowsnest Pass for a trip to Cranbrook to play the Bucks on Sunday, Dec. 5. The game in Cranbrook is at 5 pm Mountain time. This trip on good roads is at least a six-hour drive. After the game, the Express will likely face a winter wonderland for the 9.5-hour commute home to Coquitlam.
With the 21st season of Express hockey upon us, there are definitely challenges in the regular season schedule. However, playing in front of fans in buildings across the league should more than compensate for the bounce-back involved with the COVID-19 pandemic.