The Langley Rivermen made it official. For the first time in franchise history, the Rivermen won’t take part in a scheduled BC Hockey League season, instead choosing to opt out of the recently approved pod concept.
A notice on Rivermen social media states the team decided to decline to participate “after discussions with each player”.
“There are a variety of reasons behind the decision, including educational commitments and the mental and physical health implications of both the 14 days of isolation following by a 5-week strictly controlled season,” the statement reads.
By all accounts, the Rivermen will return for the 2021-22 BCHL season.
“The opt out is for this season alone,” said Jesse Adamson, Coordinator, Content Services for the BCHL. “We fully expect them back next season.”
Of the 25 players currently on Langley’s 2020-21 training season roster, only 2001-born goaltender Brandon Milberg headed to another league while the BCHL faced delays due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Thornhill, Ontario product was 1-3 with a 5.46 goals-against-average and a .818 save percentage in five games during the training season with the Riv. The Sacred Heart commit for this fall joined the Islanders Hockey Club in the National Collegiate Development Conference in early December.
The Rivermen have five players on their roster who will age out at the end of this season. Forwards Matteo Pecchia, Kaeden Patrick, and Matthew Hubbarde, and defensemen Colten Kovich and Will Dow-Kenny aren’t eligible to return to junior hockey in 2021-22.
According to the BCHL website, Hubbarde is the only one of the above five players with an NCAA commitment for next season as he is set to attend Dartmouth College. He led the Rivermen in scoring during the training season with 11 points in 10 games.
2002-born forward Kalen Szeto and 2002-born defenseman Ryan Helliwell are also off to NCAA schools this September. Szeto heads to Yale University while Helliwell will attend the University of Notre Dame.
Szeto finished third in scoring with Langley during the training season, posting two goals and eight points in nine games. Helliwell was second among all Rivermen blueliners in scoring last fall with two goals and four points in 10 games.
Players looking for temporary new teams
As a result of Langley opting out, the BCHL has permitted eligible players signed by the Rivermen to be loaned to any of the other 16 teams participating in the season.
No doubt some of the teams who saw a large number of players defect to other leagues during the BCHL’s pause will look to bring in some pieces from Langley’s roster.
As a result, any players loaned to other BCHL teams for the truncated 2020-21 season will see their rights revert back to Langley on June 1, which is when players are able to officially be signed for next season.