As British Columbia slowly lifts COVID-19 restrictions, hockey players and fans in Terrace are itching to know what the future holds for next minor hockey season.
“It’s just all over and we are hearing all kinds of things based on private arenas in B.C. as they are opening up,” said Darryl Bjorgaard, Terrace Minor Hockey Association president.
Those arenas are only open for one-on-one and very small private training sessions. Bjorgaard is skeptical that the Terrace Sportsplex would open for similar sessions based on what it costs to make the ice.
On May 28, the City of Terrace stated in a media release that “the Sportsplex and Terrace & District Aquatic Centre remain closed to the public until such a time that they can be opened safely, cost-effectively, and in line with all regulations,” but staff are preparing the facilities for opening.
Hockey Canada released “An Open Letter to Canadians,” which was also shared on the Hockey BC website. It says that the organization is working on a return-to-hockey plan.
“As the return to hockey plan progresses, it will do so at different speeds, and at different times, across the country, based on direction from health authorities. And the game will look different, that much we do know,” the letter says.
The process is going slowly. The former Hockey BC chief executive officer Barry Petrachenko was dismissed in April, after 20 years in the position. “They’re looking for a replacement for him so I think that’s slowing things down,” said Bjorgaard.
“We’ve had some discussions what its going to look like this year, what provincial play is going to be like, you know with the rep team and the travel and that type of stuff, and it certainly doesn’t look favourable, it looks like it’s not going to be as per normal,” said Bjorgaard.
On May 26, the National Hockey League announced a Return to Play Plan for the remainder of the 2019-20 season. The plan includes a modified playoff format of 24 teams which will play in two “hub” cities. Vancouver is listed in the NHL’s 10-team shortlist of hub cities, but there are logistical issues around the mandatory 14-day self-isolation for people coming into Canada.
“I would love to have hockey, but we have been very clear and the premier has been very clear that we are not bending the rules in any way that would put what we have achieved here in B.C. at risk,” said Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, at a May 26 COVID-19 briefing.
The timeline of that plan is not fully clear yet, but the NHL hopes to begin formal training camp in July.
“If they can get on the ice and play, people want sports, people need sports. I would be 100 per cent in favour of it, I know they can do it safely,” said Bjorgaard. “It would show that you can still have stuff, you can still do it safely.”