Coronavirus: Junior hockey league in B.C. cancels regular season, playoffs

The Kelowna Chiefs and Revelstoke Grizzlies seen here during 2019 playoff action. On Saturday, the KIJHL said it was cancelling its 2020-21 season after B.C. announced it was extending its ban on social gatherings and events until further notice. Steve Dunsmoor / Dunsmoor Creative

A junior hockey league in B.C. has iced the possibility of playing any meaningful games this winter or spring.

On Saturday, the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League announced that it was cancelling the 2020-21 regular season and the playoffs.

The junior-B league said its decision came in the wake of Friday’s news, which saw the provincial government extend its ban on social gatherings and events in B.C. until further notice.

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“We are disappointed for our players, team staff, volunteers, sponsors, game officials and fans that the 2020/21 season will not be completed,” KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois said in a press release.

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“Over the past number of months, we have made every effort possible to keep our athletes on the ice and to give all of them, and especially our graduating 20-year-olds, the opportunity to compete for a league championship.

“However, the further extension of the (public health order) takes us beyond where our regular season would typically end and our playoffs would begin.

“As we approach March and April, we are faced with the reality of arenas removing their ice for the spring and summer, and that leaves us unable to plan for a meaningful conclusion to our season.”

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The KIJHL is a 20-team league in B.C.’s Southern Interior, and is one of three junior-B leagues in the province, with the other two being the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) and the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL).

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On Friday, the PJHL said it will again delay the continuation of its 2020-21 season.

Meanwhile, the VIJHL said its games were cancelled until at least Feb. 5, and that the league will be evaluating its plans at that time.

Notably, on Jan. 30, the KIJHL’s Revelstoke Grizzlies announced that they were shutting down for the season following several positive tests for COVID-19.

On Saturday, the rest of the league joined the Grizzlies.

However, the league noted that teams will have an option to continue training, and that the possibility exists that exhibition games may be played if restrictions are relaxed in the future.

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“I’d like to thank all of our stakeholders for their patience and understanding during a difficult and challenging season,” said Dubois.

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“Our athletes and team staff have done a tremendous job of keeping everyone safe, and our billet families deserve special recognition for welcoming players into their homes during this pandemic. We look forward to returning to the ice this fall and getting back to the game we all love.”

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