Most of the major sports are trying desperately to bring games back to the field, ice, diamond, etc. The NHL and the NBA are working towards completing the 2019-20 season. Baseball has played a handful of 2020 regular season games that have been anything but regular. Golf has played a few tournaments.
The one thing in common with all these efforts to start… no fans. Major sports can survive without people watching the events in person. They can start up because of television. In fact, they must start up because a major part of their revenue comes from over the air and streaming broadcast rights.
The BCHL does not have that luxury. Its teams need people in the stands to make the season viable.
Teams can begin extended training camps in September and if the province moves into Phase 3 of the viaSport Return to Play model, exhibition play may begin.
The BCHL announced earlier this summer that the season start is moved to December 1st of this year. That means that the league believes that the province will have moved to Phase 4 on the pandemic plan or they will have received some sort of exemption from the Phase 3 rules. According to BC’s Provincial Health Authority, moving to Phase 4 is conditional on wide vaccination, community immunity, and broad successful treatments.
Thanks to the actions of British Columbians, we are moving into Phase 3 of our restart plan, allowing for safe and respectful travel, and for more businesses and industries to reopen. Let’s stay vigilant to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 cases: https://t.co/CYouIJxERF #COVIDBC pic.twitter.com/H4QRM0mbZf
— BC Government News (@BCGovNews) June 24, 2020
Complicating the issue even further, Prince George city council decided to keep the Spruce Kings arena closed until next year, so they have nowhere to play this year and are trying to work out pre-season activities among all the other user groups in the city with limited ice.
What about the border?
The ability of the Wenatchee Wild to participate this season is also in doubt. The border is closed to all non-essential travel and the way the pandemic has spiraled out of control in the US, it will be a while before that changes. Unless the Wenatchee team relocates to somewhere in BC, they won’t be part of the league for the near future.
The border closure also impacts the participation of American-born players, forcing teams to plan around how to use the imports. If they do want to participate, they would have to come across the border and isolate for 14 days before training camp starts.
The financial implications for some teams with tight budgets of getting prepared to start the season and then not being able to move forward with paying fans would also have to be a factor.
It is well understood that the league has to have some sort of plan in place to move forward. Everything hinges on moving to Phase 4 in the BC Restart Plan. The way things are today, it does not look like it will happen this year. Then there’s the question of whether it is even worth starting up for a few months in the new year.
— BC Hockey League (@GoBCHL) July 17, 2020
Unless there is some sort of miracle regarding COVID-19, the chance of having fans in the stands for the December 1st start is remote. Without the revenue generated from paid attendance, the BCHL cannot start the 2020-21 season and there’s a chance it might even be September 2021 before we can get back to “root, root, rooting” for the home team.