The B.C. Hockey League Board of Governors has approved a plan that will make sure the 2020-21 season goes forward, even if gate revenue is insufficient.
The BCHL has issued a request to the Provincial Health Office that would allow for 25 per cent capacity in arenas, but the alternative plan will let the league move forward even if that request is not approved before the start date of Dec. 1.
The alternative plan would see a reduced number of games and will rely on player fees, sponsorship and government support to fund the season.
“Our main objective remains to play a season, no matter what, but our original goal of starting in December with 25 per cent capacity in our buildings is in jeopardy,” board chairman Graham Fraser said.
“This new scenario allows us to have a fall-back plan if that does not occur. Even if we end up going with the alternative, we may have the opportunity to introduce fans into the stands later in the season and into the playoffs, which would, in turn, reduce costs for the players and their families.”
League commissioner Chris Hebb emphasized that sponsorship and government support will be vital in making sure a season happens.
“The fact that we are prepared to play a season without fans does not mean we no longer require financial support from the government,” he said. “Player fees will give our teams the ability to survive, but our owners are preparing to take a financial hit to ensure we get to play regular-season games in 2020-21. If anything, this only increases our need for corporate and government support. For the first time in our 60-year league history, we’re asking for players to pay an amount beyond their billet fees. This is solely caused by COVID-19 and we plan on going back to business as usual next season.”
Based on ViaSport BC regulations, the schedule will divide the league into regional cohorts of no more than four teams, with a 14-day quarantine period required before teams can rotate into new cohorts.
“Our number one goal over the past six months has been to get our players back on the ice.” BCHL executive director Steven Cocker said. “The board believes we presented a plan to safely have fans in the building and that remains our goal. In case the government does not allow for it, the league office and all 18 teams will work diligently to find ways to reduce player fees by way of funding and sponsorship. At the end of the day, we want to do right by our players, teams, our league and our fans and that means having a 2020-21 season.”
The league plans to release an exhbition schedule in the coming weeks.
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