Exactly 365 days after the BC Hockey League officially cancelled the remainder of the 2019-20 season, it officially announced the approval of the proposed 2020-21 season by British Columbia provincial health authorities.
The cancellation a year ago came on the eve of the second round of the Fred Page Cup playoffs.
In a news release, the league outlined the details of its return-to-play plan after it got the rubber stamp from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
The league has a goal of starting the season on Friday, April 2, but it might be earlier depending on the time it takes for COVID-19 test results to come back. Of course, the results would have to all be negative as well.
Either way, the league’s plan is to get the season rolling by early April.
— BC Hockey League (@GoBCHL) March 12, 2021
The model includes five different pods around the province, with three to four teams playing out of each one. The BCHL won’t announce the pod locations until the schedule is released, but TSN’s Farhan Lalji indicated in a tweet on Thursday that Alberni Valley, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Penticton, and Vernon will each host games.
A chief medical officer has been hired by the league as well to oversee the return-to-play for its 17 teams and all other COVID-19 related safety issues. The chief medical officer is also tasked with looking after the mandatory quarantine period and a round of testing before teams enter their respective pods.
Any team wishing to opt out of the season has a deadline of Saturday to do so. So far, only the Wenatchee Wild pulled the chute on the season, doing so back on Nov. 24.
The season came perilously close to being cancelled when a self-imposed Mar. 3 deadline passed for approval of the return-to-play plan by health authorities, including Henry.
During the government’s COVID-19 update on Mar. 2, the province’s top doctor indicated she had a number of concerns with the concept of BCHL teams playing and traveling around the province.
Then the league’s board of governors was set to vote on a motion to cancel the season entirely a week ago, but after experiencing positive dialogue with the PHO, they decided to delay the vote.
With today’s announcement, the league didn’t address any type of potential playoff structure or what travel between the pods will look like.