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 is 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

Dr. Bernhardt’s freshly planted strawberries. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Hoping for a bumper crop of strawberries

Because our new plot gets a lot of sun, maybe strawberries won’t become consumed by wood bugs

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson Column: Newton’s first law of motion

I could have sworn I told them to help each other get unbuckled and to come inside.

Commercial property owners in Duncan will have an opportunity to beef up their security in 2021 with matching grants from the municipality. (File photo)
City of Duncan to help commercial properties increase security

Municipality to set up matching grant opportunities

John and Jeri Wyatt hope the upcoming North Cowichan public hearing will move things along toward exclusion of the Chemainus River Campground from the Agricultural Land Reserve. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Input sought on Chemainus campground ALR exclusion at public hearing

Matter back on the agenda after a late reprieve in 2019 for Chemainus River Campground owners

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

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

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

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Most Read