Only U.S.-based BCHL team takes the year off due to border restrictions

Wild take a year hiatus

When, or if, the BC Hockey League is able to begin its 2020-2021 season, it will do so without its only American-based franchise.

Due to the closure of the Canada-U.S. border, and restrictions put in place by Washington State, the Wenatchee Wild are taking a hiatus for this season.

The Wild have released all players on their current roster to give them the opportunity to find a place to play elsewhere.

Wild GM Bliss Littler calls the decision a sad day for the organization.

“We feel for our players, housing families, fans, season ticket holders, corporate sponsors and the Town Toyota Center. It’s not a good day for any of us. This will hurt for a while for sure, but I know we will get through this and we will be back better than ever for the 2021-2022 season," said Littler.

“I will challenge the hockey operations staff building next year’s team to recruit harder and smarter than ever. We will challenge our front office to upgrade everything we do. We are proud of the show we put on right now, but want make it the most entertaining event in junior hockey.”

The league announced Monday that, due to restrictions around travel put in place by the provincial health officer, the start of the season has been pushed back from Dec. 2 to Dec. 8.

That date could also change if the current restrictions in place through Dec. 7 are extended.

The BCHL anticipates it will release a new schedule shortly.

The BC Hockey League has delayed start of its regular season by a week

BCHL delays season start

The BC Hockey League is delaying the start of its 2020-2021 season by at least a week following the latest order from the provincial health officers banning sports teams from travelling between communities.

The ban is in effect until Dec. 7 in an effort to try and curtail the massive spread of COVID-19.

The announcement by the province has prompted the BCHL to push forward the regular season from Dec. 2 to Dec 8.

The remainder of the exhibition season has also been cancelled.

“If the PHO extends their current restrictions beyond Dec. 7, we have the option of moving the start date to after the holidays, but it is our intention to begin play once the current order expires”, said BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb.

“Our objective from the beginning, when we worked out our COVID-19 safety plan with the PHO, was to allow our players to have a season, but we want to make sure it is under the safest conditions possible.”

League executive director Steven Cocker added if there is a further delay in starting up the season, players wishing to go home for the holidays will be required to adhere to all travel guidelines, including a 14-day isolation before rejoining their teams.

Penticton Vee forward makes Swiss national squad

Vee makes Swiss squad

A Penticton Vee forward is one of 34 players the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation has named to compete for a spot on the Under-20 Swiss National Team, who will play at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton, Alta.

Stefano Bottini, 18, played in 10 games throughout the Okanagan Cup where he registered a goal and four assists for five points in the tournament. He played14 international games last season at the Under-18 level wearing the Swiss jersey, including four games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

The Swiss National Team opens their World Junior Hockey Championship tournament on Christmas Day against Slovakia. Switzerland will also play in two pre-tournament games on Sunday, Dec. 20 against the United States and Tuesday, Dec. 22 against Sweden. 

In the meantime, the BCHL league has pushed its regular season start from Dec. 2 to Dec. 8 in accordance with new provincial restrictions. 

If provincial health authorities extend current restrictions beyond Dec. 7, that start day of play may change again.

BCHL alumni launch fund to support players affected by COVID-19

Alumni come to players' aid

The BC Hockey League's alumni association is coming to the aid of players affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the league planning to go ahead with the 2020-2021 season with no fans due to COVID-19 restrictions, players have been required to pay fees beyond billet payments in order to help fund the season.

To help offset some of those costs, the alumni association has created the Player Assistance Fund.

“We understand the difficulty that this pandemic has caused everyone, especially financially,” said BCHL Alumni Association member and former Victoria Grizzlies forward Madison Dias.

“BCHL players and their families are in a tough situation trying to make ends meet, while also trying to give their sons the best opportunity to further their hockey careers. That’s why we’ve setup a GoFundMe where people can donate money to directly help these players in this difficult time.”

Dias, who played four seasons at Cornell University, is one of four main members of the association.

Other members include former Cowichan Valley Capital and University of Notre Dame grad Shayne Taker, who went on to play in the AHL and ECHL, Derek Lee who played for Victoria and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks before playing four years at the University of Wisconsin and Jake Baker who played for four different BCHL teams and went on to play at Northern Michigan University, as well as stops in the AHL and ECHL.

Baker is currently employed in the BCHL office as co-ordinator of financial services and events.

“The BCHL was so important for me in my development as a hockey player and for me securing an education at Cornell, which has allowed me to explore opportunities beyond hockey after my playing career was done,” said Dias.

“We all want to give back to league and to the players in those communities that supported us over the years and we thought this would be a great way to accomplish that.”

Penticton Vees bring on two new defencemen

Vees add 2 defencemen

The Penticton Vees Junior ‘A’ Hockey Club has acquired two new defencemen.

Philippe Chapleau, 20, joins the team after spending his past three seasons with his hometown team in Longueuil in the Quebec Junior Hockey League. Chapleau earned 21 goals and 113 assists for 134 points in his 132 games played.

The 5’8”, 165-pound player has held the most assists among any other defender in the QJHL last season, earning himself 47 assists in 44 games played, finishing the season with 55 points while being named to the QJHL First All-Star Team.  

Chapleau represented Canada back in 2019 on a national level, playing for Team Canada East in the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge. Chapleau earned a goal and three assists for four points in five tournament games and was named to the WJAC All-Star Team. 

On Saturday, the Vees also announced they acquired 18-year-old Owen Forfellow, after he played the last two seasons with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds of the BC Major Midget League.

The 6-foot-2, 181-pound Forfellow posted 14 goals and 19 assists in 65 career games with the T-Birds, and accumulated 114 penalty minutes in that span. 

The Abbotsford native played with the Coquitlam Express for a pair of games last season in the BCHL.

Meanwhile, the Vees have released 17-year-old defenseman Jason Marsella from the roster.  

The Vees are coming off their recent win of the Okanagan Cup, after beating the Vernon Vipers last weekend. 

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