The Cowichan Valley Capitals and Chilliwack Chiefs battle in a game during the 2019-20 B.C. Hockey League season. (File photo)

The Cowichan Valley Capitals and Chilliwack Chiefs battle in a game during the 2019-20 B.C. Hockey League season. (File photo)

BCHL asks province for help with pandemic losses

League has ‘every intention’ of playing next season, but financial issues have been identified

Hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the cancellation of the 2020 playoffs and spring camps, both vital revenue-generators, and uncertainty about ticket revenue and sponsorships for next season, the B.C. Hockey League has asked the provincial government for financial assistance to offset its losses.

“We have every intention of playing hockey next season, with all 18 of our teams, if we get the green light from Hockey Canada as well as the provincial health authorities,” BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb said. “But, the reality is we’ve identified potential financial issues down the road due to this pandemic and want to address these problems now.

“The league has already lent its support to our teams through a contingency fund, but it’s clear that more is needed.”

According to Hebb, the league sent a letter to Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare on Saturday, April 18, explaining what the league is and the effects the pandemic has had. They are hoping for a response by the end of this week.

“We had couple of former politicians that we knew guide us through this,” Hebb noted on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s not the business we’re in; we’re not lobbyists.”

The BCHL cut the 2020 playoffs short after the first round, when Hockey Canada shut down all sanctioned events indefinitely.

Hebb has expressed concerns recently that the league could lose teams as a result of the pandemic. He acknowledged on Wednesday that some of the clubs may be in dire financial straits, although none have said they won’t be back for a 2020-21 season.

“We have had no teams indicate they won’t be playing,” he said. “but it’s a difficult prospect for teams to be without revenue.”

The BCHL is a gate-driven league, with the bulk of funds coming from ticket sales.

“Both of those are about having people in the seats,” Hebb commented. “At the end of the day, sponsors want people in seats, and ticket sales is our bread and butter.”

Even major junior hockey, Hebb pointed out, does get some money from broadcasting deals, but the BCHL doesn’t have that luxury.

Among sports leagues in the province, the BCHL unique in a number of respects, Hebb said.

“We’re nearly 59 years old,” he pointed out. “Not many leagues have been around that long and have meant so much to so many.”

The league announced last October that it was expanding into the East Kootenays with the Cranbrook Bucks franchise, and Hebb said he is no more concerned about that club than he is about the other 17. Sponsors are “sitting on the sidelines” throughout the league as they wait to see what is going to happen next.

“We know we’re going to take a hit on sponsorship revenue. It’s the same in Cranbrook as in every one of our markets.”

The BCHL has several plans in place for if and when they get the go-ahead for a 2020-21 season, including their original schedule of 54 games, as well as backup plans for 50 and 46 games. The owners, he said, want the season to proceed, as do the players.

“Kids are relying on us as a place to play, and we want to provide it,” Hebb said, pointing out that the league had a record 172 players commit to U.S. Div. 1 or Div. 3 programs or Canadian university teams, a number that has increased each of the last six years. That represents about $3 million in scholarships.

“It’s not only a boon to the community,” Hebb said. “It’s a boon to the kids.”

There are 10 junior A leagues in Canada, but the BCHL produces about 60 per cent of scholarship players, the commissioner said.

“We have something special in B.C. It’s not run-of-the-mill junior A. It’s something that helps kids develop and go to school.

“We hope fans realize we are going to turn over every stone to make sure teams are viable. Remember, these teams are really important to their communities.”

In pursuing funding from the provincial government, the BCHL has gathered letters of support from the mayors of their markets in B.C., as well as the District of Kitimat where the league held its first-ever BCHL Road Show in February.

BCHLCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Interior Health reports 2 more deaths, 83 new COVID-19 cases

Health authority also identifies new virus cluster in Fernie

Scamsters target Montrose resident. File photo
Fraudsters strike again in Montrose

A Montrose resident was taken for thousands in a COVID-related scam

(Black Press file photo)
Trail RCMP fine event organizer for flouting PHO order

Twenty-nine people attended an event at a place of worship in Trail

Violin Lake last fall. Photo: City of Trail
City of Trail applies for grant to decomission dams

Adaptation, Resilience and Disaster Mitigation grant to restore Cambridge Creek and Violin Lk system

South Columbia Search and Rescue called in the Nelson Search and Rescue and Kootenay Valley Helicopters to provide a long line rescue. Photo: BCSAR submitted.
Long-line rescue needed for injured hiker near Trail

Members of South Columbia and Nelson SAR and Kootenay Valley Helicopters did a long-line evacuation

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kamloops hospital grows to 66 cases

A majority of cases remain among staff at Royal Inland Hospital

Most Read