BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure / Flickr

BCHL scraps out-of-conference games for the remainder of 2021-22

The next time a Coastal Conference team and an Interior Conference team face off in the BC Hockey League will be the 2022 playoffs, more than likely not until the Fred Page Cup final to determine the first league champion since the Prince George Spruce Kings were crowned in 2019.

That reality comes after the league announced on Nov. 30 that all games involving out-of-conference matchups are scrapped for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.

With the season less than two months old, travel delays, road closures, and flooding have wreaked havoc with the schedule, especially since the early part of November.

Of the 157 games completed from the start of the season on Oct. 8 through to the end of November, 23 of them involved teams from opposite conferences as regularly scheduled road trip games. An additional 17 out-of-conference matchups were completed at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack from Oct. 20 – 24.

First because of the pandemic, and now because of these weather-caused delays, the BCHL has shown itself to be flexible when it comes to adjusting its schedule to try and complete the season as best as possible.

Although the schedule is very fluid, at this point there are still 24 out-of-conference games that need to be made up somehow, even though none of them are on the slate until the calendar flips to 2022.

  • Jan. 7 – Wenatchee @ Coquitlam
  • Jan. 8 – Wenatchee @ Chilliwack
  • Jan. 20 – Surrey @ Salmon Arm
  • Jan. 21 – Surrey @ Vernon
  • Jan. 22 – Penticton @ Coquitlam
  • Jan. 22 – Salmon Arm @ Chilliwack
  • Jan. 23 – Merritt @ Langley
  • Jan. 28 – Surrey @ Prince George
  • Jan. 29 – Langley @ Prince George
  • Feb. 2 – Prince George @ Powell River
  • Feb. 4 – Prince George @ Alberni Valley
  • Feb. 5 – Prince George @ Cowichan Valley
  • Feb. 10 – West Kelowna @ Powell River
  • Feb. 11 – Merritt @ Victoria
  • Feb. 11 – West Kelowna @ Nanaimo
  • Feb. 12 – Merritt @ Alberni Valley
  • Feb. 13 – Merritt @ Surrey
  • Feb. 16 – Cowichan Valley @ West Kelowna
  • Feb. 18 – Cowichan Valley @ Trail
  • Feb. 19 – Cowichan Valley @ Salmon Arm
  • Feb. 25 – West Kelowna @ Surrey
  • Feb. 26 – West Kelowna @ Coquitlam
  • Mar. 5 – Vernon @ Langley
  • Mar. 11 – Penticton @ Chilliwack

Seventeen BCHL teams will have at least one game impacted by the 24 games listed above being rescheduled. The Cranbrook Bucks are the only ones who don’t have an out-of-conference game scheduled among those remaining this season.

Nothing right now is normal anyway

However, the BCHL has removed a potential headache by making the decision to limit Interior Conference team travel to only points east of Merritt, meaning it doesn’t need to rely on those clubs traversing the Coquihalla Highway, Fraser Canyon, or Hope-Princeton to get to road games in the Lower Mainland or on Vancouver Island.

Now, before my inbox is flooded with emails from angry Northern British Columbians and Central Washingtonians, I know Prince George is technically further west than Merritt, and Wenatchee is almost exactly at the same latitude of the Country Music Capital of Canada, but the Spruce Kings and Wild are quite simply geographic outliers compared to the other Interior Conference teams.

On the flip side, limiting travel in the Coastal Conference to those teams geographically located in the historic Mainland and Island Divisions removes any factors caused by heading further east than Chilliwack. There are obviously still issues associated with flooding in the Fraser Valley, and BC Ferries is always susceptible to shutdowns during the stormy winter months, but the BCHL is better to hedge its bets on navigating around those obstacles, both literally and figuratively.

None of this is ideal, but after last season where each team only played two or three opponents in a pod scenario and two teams opted out altogether, the BCHL can be forgiven for adjusting on the fly. Regardless, for fans around the province, seeing only the eight other teams in the same conference as their home squad is infinitely better than the alternative, which is not seeing any games at all.