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

Old English design elements can be seen in the sign of the Summerland Farm and Garden Centre in 1993. The guidelines are no longer in place, but some downtown businesses still show aspects of the days when Summerland had a theme in place. This photo was taken by Summerland photographer Dan Dorotich. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Old English theme has been abandoned

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, Summerland had design guidelines in its downtown

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Residents of Rural Keremeos, Olalla and Hedley are being asked to give feedback for the first Official Community Plan for the area. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
Survey on RDOS Area G OCP open until April 30

The area’s first Official Community Plan is in the early stages of development

Nominally 'flushable' wipes caused one of Keremeos lift stations to shut down, damaging the pump inside. The Village is asking residents not to flush anything that isn't human waste. (Black Press)
Keremeos reminds residents not to flush wipes after pump damaged

‘Flushable’ wipes caused the pump to seize up and burn out

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Firefighters battled a burning home on farmland in the north end of Vernon Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Homeowner taken to hospital after Vernon home destroyed by fire

Firefighters engaged in a lengthy battle against the engulfed structure Saturday afternoon

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Okanagan dealership gives local cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over in surgical unit of Vernon hospital

The outbreak affected four staff, 10 patients and led to three deaths in just over two weeks

A group of youth in Kelowna's Knox Mountain Park are suspected as having violated the B.C. Wildlife Act by harassing a pair of nesting bald eagles with a drone Friday, April 16, 2021. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Nesting bald eagles harassed by youth-piloted drone in Kelowna

Conservation Officers are hoping to hear from anyone who witnessed the Knox Mountain incident

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

Most Read