The Trail Smoke Eaters forward Chase Dafoe will have to wait another month before finding out if they will be facing off in BCHL action. Photo: Jim Bailey.

The Trail Smoke Eaters forward Chase Dafoe will have to wait another month before finding out if they will be facing off in BCHL action. Photo: Jim Bailey.

Smoke Eaters prepared for start, whenever it happens

BC junior hockey leagues announce intent to wait out PHO order

The Trail Smoke Eaters are committed to continue to carry on as the provincial health office announced another COVID order extension on Thursday.

Despite the BCHL hopes and plans to get a season underway on Jan. 8, those were quickly dashed after Dr. Bonnie Henry extended the current public health order to Feb. 5, which means that all sport is restricted to operate under viaSport Phase 2 guidelines.

“We’re still not giving up,” said Smoke Eaters director of business and hockey operations Craig Clare. “Obviously we have to follow the rules until Feb. 5, but by no means are we giving up on the year.”

BCHL Commissioner Chirs Hebb says the league will push the start of the season to Feb. 8.

“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 2020-21 season,” said Hebb. “We understand why the order was extended and we will continue to work with the PHO on scenarios to start a season in a safe manner.”

The BCHL played close to 90 games of an extended exhibition season without incident, before PHO orders on travel shut down the league on Nov. 23.

With the province giving the go ahead for the NHL to face off on Jan. 13, the move underscores the contention that PHO rules do not apply to professional athletes or politicians.

To add insult to injury, BCHL hockey players are leaving their teams and flying south to play for teams in the US Hockey League (USHL) and North American Hockey League (NAHL), which have been going since October.

The Smoke Eaters have been ‘fortunate’ so far. They lost captain Cody Schiavon and U.S. born Connor Sweeney, but Schiavon on a scholarship to the NCAA University of Vermont and Sweeney to the Islanders Hockey Club of the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC).

Related read: Smoke Eaters captain to join U of Vermont

“I don’t think we’re going to see that,” said Clare. “We’re here, we’re still training, we’re still practicing and following the PHO. At the same time we are in a better spot than other provinces that can’t train at all. We’re moving forward, and hoping that come Feb. 5, the numbers go down and we can play.”

The KIJHL also released a statement saying it hopes to resume the season after Feb. 5, and that teams like the Castlegar Rebels will continue with preparations to award the Teck Cup to the league champion in the spring.

“I would like to acknowledge the patience and resiliency of our athletes, team staff, billet families, volunteers, sponsors and fans as we continue to navigate a challenging season,” says KIJHL Commissioner Jeff Dubois. “Our goal is to return to competitive play as soon as the provincial guidelines allow us to do so. In the meantime, our member clubs are working hard to maximize development opportunities for their players in a structured team environment, while following all relevant health and safety protocols.”

Despite the cancellation of last year’s playoffs in March and uncertainty surrounding this season, the Smoke Eaters coaching and management staff showed acute foresight in recruiting a younger squad than a more normal year would see.

“We went younger this year,” said Clare. “We didn’t know what the future was going to look like, so this was an opportunity to go younger, so when everything opens up, most likely next year, with fans in the building, then we got a team that’s all returning, has some experience and is ready to compete.”

Smoke Eaters goalie Logan Terness is 18, although committed to Connecticut, and backup Cayden Hamming is just 17. The seven remaining Trail defenceman are all born in 2002, and 11 forwards are eligible to return next season including veterans Chase Dafoe, 18, and Jaden Senkoe, 19.

The Smoke Eaters continue their skills practices and workouts Monday to Friday, following the PHO Stage 2 guidelines. Whether there is a season this year or next, the Trail team and the staff will be prepared for whatever happens.

“We have a group of all returning players,” said Clare. “And that’s motivation enough to build, and if we don’t play this year then we’ll have a group for next year that has been practicing all year together.

“Some teams might not be able to say the same thing.”

Read: Smoke Eaters host Bucks in BCHL debut



sports@trailtimes.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

West Kootenay communities like Rossland are transitioning to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050. Photo: Mathew Roland/BBJ
Rossland commits to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050

“It’s a really unique plan, and we have to go forward, we have to go to a low carbon future.”

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

RCMP responded to a report early Friday morning of a suspect firing a gun at a Salmo home. Photo: Black Press
RCMP arrest woman who fired shots at Salmo home

The woman allegedly discharged a firearm early Friday morning

Summit Ski Hill had a delayed start to the season because of warm temperatures. Photo: Summit Ski Hill
Late season start frustrating for Nakusp ski hill

Summit Ski Hill only just opened Jan. 14

Four friends were heading to their home on Highway 6 just south of Silverton on the evening of Dec. 25, 2020, when the people in the front of the vehicle saw what looked like a “huge, man-like figure” on the side of the road. (Pixabay.com)
Possible Bigfoot sighting shocks, excites Silverton residents

‘I didn’t see the creature myself, I saw the prints’

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Most Read