Fraser Valley/Burnaby (Brian Weibe BCHL Network) – The BC Hockey League will look more normal for the 2021-22 season (more info at this link).
Of course, how the pandemic plays out over the next couple of months as the vaccine rollout in British Columbia continues will dictate things, but the BCHL is planning for a return to normalcy.
In a recent episode of the BCHL podcast, league executive director Steven Cocker described how they continued to plan for the 2021-22 season despite the hectic, six-week sprint that was the pod season.
“Throughout the pandemic, our league didn’t take our foot off the gas. Yes, we still had our return-to-play task force calls going on all cylinders trying to find a way to return to the ice, but we continued to operate our committees in the league,” Cocker explained on the podcast.
“We’re looking at going back to our 54 game season, we’re already working on a schedule for that. The plan is that all 18 teams will be back in action and we’re excited to have the entire BCHL family back.”
Conducting normal business next season includes returning to the previously-announced 54-game schedule and regular divisional alignment after playing a 20-game schedule and temporarily realigning this season because of travel restrictions between provincial health regions.
The configuration for 2021-22 sees the Prince George Spruce Kings move from the Mainland Division to the newly formed Interior Conference. The Cranbrook Bucks, now entering their second BCHL season, are also part of the Interior along with the Spruce Kings, Penticton Vees, Trail Smoke Eaters, Wenatchee Wild, Merritt Centennials, Salmon Arm Silverbacks, Vernon Vipers, and West Kelowna Warriors.
Meanwhile, the Island and Mainland Divisions have merged into a Coastal Conference featuring the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, Cowichan Valley Capitals, Powell River Kings, Coquitlam Express, Surrey Eagles, Nanaimo Clippers, Chilliwack Chiefs, Langley Rivermen, and Victoria Grizzlies.
Celebrating a diamond anniversary
The 2021-22 season is a big one for the BCHL, as it marks its 60th anniversary.
“We continued to talk about what we want to do with our strategic plan in getting our league better and ensuring a bright future for the league as we exit the pandemic. The league has been working hard on what is in the future. Talking about next year, we’re super excited about the 60th anniversary, it’s going to be a special year for us. We have some great initiatives and events that we’re looking to bring to next season.”