League office and Vees boss Harbinson put rumours to rest

The BC Hockey League raised some eyebrows when it sent out a cryptic tweet on Saturday afternoon implying that other leagues were talking about the league’s downfall. The tweet surmised that because the BCHL has approached the provincial government for financial support amid the COVID-19 crisis, it was facing financial peril. Now the league office has clarified the purpose behind the tweet.

“Without getting into specifics, we heard rumours circulating that other teams and leagues were using the pandemic and our request for financial support as a way to lure some of our players away,” said BCHL Coordinator, Content Services Jesse Adamson on Monday. “We haven’t confirmed a source for those rumours, but we wanted to make sure we got our message out there and clear the air.”

The league put out an official statement of its own on Monday, with BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb directly addressing the issue. “This call for financial support has also, unfortunately, led to some talk at various levels that the BC Hockey League is somehow in danger of not returning next season. This is entirely false. As we’ve mentioned in previous communications, the BCHL will be back on the ice as soon as we get the go-ahead from Hockey Canada and the provincial health authorities.”

“The idea behind our call for financial support is to address the losses that our teams have incurred before they become a major problem down the road. Like everyone else, we eagerly await the day that we can return to the ice in a safe manner,” Hebb continued.

Harbinson had heard enough

There’s no indication where the rumours came from, but Penticton Vees president, general manager and head coach Fred Harbinson also took to Twitter on Saturday to dispel any questions about the BCHL not operating in 2020-21. “Attention advisors, scouts, coaches, no need to call and ask if the BCHL is planning to play this fall – we are!” said Harbinson in his tweet.

Harbinson, who’s been with the Vees since the 2007-08 season and won a Royal Bank Cup national championship in 2012, talked with Steve Ewen of The Province about his outburst against those saying the BCHL is trouble. “Harbinson wouldn’t point fingers at exactly who might be trying to spread the word that the entire BCHL is in harm’s way, but it’s no secret that the league has long duelled with the U.S. Hockey League for players,” writes Ewen.

As for the call for financial support, the BCHL joins many other leagues across the province and country looking for help, including the junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League and the Canadian Football League. Hebb is clear in the statement released on Monday the BCHL has reached out to the lawmakers in Victoria for advice on how to get financial support to help its teams, not that the league itself is looking for funding.

“These discussions have been positive so far and are ongoing. We’re committed to exploring every option to make sure our teams get the support they deserve as important cultural and economic pillars of their communities.”