In the second week of September, the Vernon Vipers returned to Kal Tire Place for training camp. Usually, at this time of year, the team has begun their season already, but not his year. I caught up with Vipers head coach and general manager Jason McKee to discuss how training camp has been.
“Camp is going great, lots of changes and different protocols, but its good to be back on the ice.”
COVID-19 has forced teams to rethink training camps. Usually, a team can have between 40-60 players with multiple teams and intrasquad games being played, but this year’s Vipers camp has been scaled down quite a bit.
“It’s a small camp, it’s not your traditional training camp, where’s there are three or four teams. I believe we’re at 28 players right now, we’ve got into practicing right away, and we’ve done a couple of intrasquad games amongst that group.”
Not all of McKee’s players have made it to Vernon for the start of camp. With many of the players coming from the United States, it has been challenging to get them here, but some have made it, done quarantine, and been on the ice at Vernon’s camp.
McKee says the players that have been at camp are the ones he’ll be using this season. “This will be our group, and we’ll add and subtract as we normally would at this time of year. This is our team, and there are still some decisions that have to be made.”
BCHL return to play
The BCHL announced in a press release that the 2020-21 season is going ahead with two plans in place to ensure it can happen.
The plan the BCHL hopes will be in place come December will have fans in arenas but not at full capacity, with only 25 percent allowed. According to BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb, this would be done to ensure proper social distancing and the safety of fans. This plan can only be approved by BC’s Provincial Health Officer.
BCHL approves alternative scenario to guarantee a 2020-21 season
— BC Hockey League (@GoBCHL) September 11, 2020
The second plan that the BCHL has in place would see the league have limited games and no fans in the stands. The BCHL will hope to have fans back in their arenas at a later time if the COVID-19 situation improves.
For the teams to make up some of the money, the league is implementing a pay to play system this year. Hebb says it’s only for this season. Hebb is also hoping that community and government sponsorships could help support players that may not be able to afford it.
As for how the season will play out, the league has proposed regional “bubbles.” Groups of four teams or less will be grouped and can play each other. Teams are allowed to travel between groups but will have to wait through a two week quarantine period before being able to play anyone in their group.
The league is still trying to figure out all the logistics of holding a season that will ensure the safety of all players and staff, but for right now, they now a season will be held.