Coronavirus: Junior hockey teams in Okanagan impacted by B.C.'s new public health orders

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League was barely a week into its regular-season schedule when last Thursday’s public health order halted the 2020-21 season.

“It was really disappointing. We worked really hard to get to where we are right now,” said goaltender Michael Toole of the KIJHL’s Kelowna Chiefs.

In light of the new parameters outlined by Viasport, the KIJHL paused all gameplay on Saturday.

The puck won’t drop on another league game until Monday, Dec. 8 at the earliest.

READ MORE: Two players at Canada’s junior hockey camp test positive for COVID-19

After four games, the Chiefs were tied for first in their division along with the Summerland Steam.

For now, Kelowna continues to practice but no one is oblivious to the possibility that, due to the increase in COVID-19 cases, this may mark the end of junior hockey competition for some time.

“I think it’s in the back of everyone’s mind for sure,” said Toole.

“But, as of right now, we practice, still have workouts, so we have to come to the rink and act as if we are playing.”

For Ken Law, the Chiefs’ head coach, the reality that COVID-19 may once again completely cancel competition has already sunk in.

“I just feel for the players. They’ve put all this time in and they’re here and they’re invested and they want to keep going,” Law told Global News.

“But, at the end of the day, the big picture is a lot more important.”

In the BCHL, after the Penticton Vees took the inaugural Okanagan Cup, the public health order cancelled a handful of exhibition games and delayed season-opening action once again.

“It was originally going to start on December 2nd, and we pushed it to December 8th because the order ends December 7th at midnight,” said BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb.

Despite the setback, the BCHL maintains it can return to play safely, even if the season start date is pushed back again.

“We plan on having a season.We think that the measures that are being taken by the PHO are going to be effective and we also have a very, very safe COVID-19 plan that is in place,” Hebb said.

The recent public health order had no effect on the WHL, as the league is sitting idle, awaiting their starting date slated for Jan. 8.

“I think a lot of is going to depend on our province, in particular on Dr. Henry when she decides that she is going to allow us to get going,” said Kelowna Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton.

“I think time will tell; it depends on how hard everyone in the community works to get this under wraps,” added Toole.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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