BC Hockey League pushes possible start of season back to February

BCHL delays start...again

It will be at least early to mid February before the BC Hockey League is able to start a new season.

The league announced Friday morning it has pushed the start of the 2020-2021 regular season to the week of Feb. 8 after provincial health orders restricting team sports was extended to Feb. 5.

"Although it is frustrating to have to delay our season start once again, we are in no way, shape or form throwing in the towel on the 2020-2021 season," said commissioner Chris Hebb in a news release Friday morning.

"We understand why the order was extended, and we will continue to work with the PH on scenarios to start a season in a safe manner."

The league had originally planned for an early December start, but that was wiped out with the introduction of orders restricting team sports.

Plans were then put in place to begin in mid-January if those restrictions had been eased.

The league has not stated how many games clubs would be able to play if a season were to start next month, or a drop-dead date for ultimately cancelling the season altogether.

Five former Warriors try to crack NHL lineups

Warrior alum go camping

Several players with ties to the BCHL's West Kelowna Warriors hope to don NHL uniforms when the abbreviated 2020-2021 season begins next Wednesday.

Five former Warriors are at NHL training camps this week, in hopes of either cracking the lineup or, in some cases, making a positive enough impression to get a shot with an American Hockey League affiliate.

The group is led by two-time Stanley Cup winning defenceman Justin Schultz, who will suit up with the Washington Capitals after spending parts of five seasons with arch-rival Pittsburgh.

Schultz signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Capitals in the of season.

Colton Sissons is also a shoo-in to return to the Nashville Predators, where he has played his entire six-year NHL career.

Also invited to training camps are forward Jason Cotton (Carolina) and goaltender Kevin Boyle (Detroit).

Forward Jack Finley, who suited up for a handful of games during this season's Okanagan Cup tournament, has joined the camp of the Stanley cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning after inking an entry level contract.

12 former Vees suiting up for NHL training camp

Vees alumni eye NHL

NHL training camps are underway for the 2021 season, and a dozen Penticton Vees alumni are hitting the ice vying for their place on a team. 

The twelve former Vees suiting up at camps are as follows:

  • F Zac Dalpe (Columbus Blue Jackets) 
  • F Steven Fogarty (Buffalo Sabres) 
  • F Ryan Johansen (Nashville Predators) 
  • F Tyson Jost (Colorado Avalanche) 
  • F Curtis McKenzie (St. Louis Blues) 
  • D Dante Fabbro (Nashville Predators) 
  • D Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks) 
  • D Colton Poolman (Calgary Flames) 
  • D Mike Reilly (Ottawa Senators) 
  • D Troy Stecher (Detroit Red Wings) 
  • G Hunter Miska (Colorado Avalanche) 
  • G Brad Theissen (Columbus Blue Jackets) 

Forwards Johansen and Jost are no strangers to NHL ice, seeing significant play time last season. Fellow forwards Dalpe and McKenzie played last season in the American Hockey League and are hoping to earn a spot on an NHL roster this year. 

All four former Vees defenders have earned their NHL spots already. The goaltenders in camps this season are on the opposite ends of their playing careers with Miska entering his fourth season of pro hockey, having joineed  the Avalanche for their playoff run in the bubble in Edmonton last season.

Theissen, on the other hand, is making his way into his 11th season in pro hockey and has played the last three years with Columbus’ farm team as a player/coach and will continue that role this season.  

The former Vees are part of a larger group of 48 former BCHLers who are attending NHL training camps this season. 

Penticton Vees forward Stefano Bottini and Chilliwack Chiefs forward Ray Fust have both made team Switzerland’s for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship

Vees player at World Juniors

A Penticton Vees player has earned himself a spot on Team Switzerland’s final roster for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. 

Stefano Bottini, 18, came onto the Vees team this year after moving from the Lugano program in Switzerland. The newcomer forward had a goal and four assists in 10 games of Okanagan Cup play during the BCHL exhibition season. 

Bottini also earned an assist in Switzerland’s 3-2 win over Austria in their pre-tournament game yesterday.

Chilliwack Chiefs forward Ray Fust also made the final cut for the team, which was on Wednesday. Fust got a goal and an assist in six exhibition games for Chilliwack this season.

He also spent last season at Northwood School in New York before joining the Chiefs for the year’s season. Prior to his stint at Northwood, Fust played in the Lausanne program in Switzerland.

Both players have experience representing Switzerland at international tournaments, but this will be their first opportunity to compete at the U20 level.

The Swiss are in Group A along with Canada, Finland, Germany and Slovakia.Games begin on Christmas day at 11 a.m. with preliminary round play.

This year marks the third in a row there will be a BCHL representative on the Swiss team at the World Juniors after former Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward and current Colgate University sophomore Matthew Verboon was on the roster the last two tournaments.

Bottini and Fust join Canada’s Alex Newhook as players representing the BCHL in this year’s tournament.

New provincial health orders have forced the BCHL to again delay the start of the 2020-2021 season

BCHL delays season start

The BC Hockey League had hoped it could begin its abbreviated 2020-2021 season this past weekend.

Provincial health orders restricting participation in sports by anyone over 18, enacted amid the second wave of COVID-19, has forced the league to put its plans on hold.

The original order, which expired Monday, has been extended through Jan. 8, 2021.

With nearly half of the league comprised 19 and 20 year old players, the league has announced it will delay the start of the season to the new year.

“For the past nine months, the board of governors, the league office and the return-to-play task force have done everything possible to do right by our players and the public,” said board chair, Graham Fraser.

“Under our PHO-approved COVID-19 safety plan, we successfully trained and played exhibition games from September to November, completing 90 games without a transmission, but the current restrictions will not allow us to start our regular season in December.”

Fraser says the league remains committed to exploring every possible avenue which will allow it to start a season safely, as soon as possible.

He says the league is even exploring the possibility of a BCHL-hub.

Commissioner Chris Hebb says the league is disappointed 19 and 20 year old players are not allowed to participate in on-ice activities, considering teams and players have adhered to restrictions against travelling outside their home arena.

"We are working diligently with BC Hockey, viaSPORT BC and the PHO to get our older players on the ice, but at the moment we must follow the PHO’s order as written," said Hebb.

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