March 12 was a ‘sad day for hockey,’ as described by Trevor Sprague when the General Manager of Cariboo Hockey had to tell his players their seasons were postponed.
The COVID-19 pandemic officially cancelled the six-team organization’s inaugural season the next day (March 13) when Hockey Canada banned all sanctioned activities out of concern for player, coach and parents safety.
Two months later, the national governing body lifted its ban and has developed conversations among Cariboo Hockey on how it can return to some sort of normality for its 2020-21 campaign.
“In regards to what that looks like, we don’t have a firm yet,” says Cariboo spokesperson Caleb Wilson to PrinceGeorgeMatters after the team released an update on its plan to work with the city, the province and Northern Health on hitting the ice in the fall.
“Obviously, we’ll have to wait to see what they’re thinking and wait to see what Dr. Bonnie Henry has to say in the weeks ahead.”
‘It’s a sad day for hockey’: Cariboo General Manager Trevor Sprague (@Boston771), after talking to the U18 Cougars & Capitals earlier, delivers the news to the Minor Midgets, Midget AAs & Major Bantams, who were all in the playoffs fighting for a provincial banner | #CityOfPG pic.twitter.com/PjvmyVTNOy— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) March 13, 2020
While northern B.C. appears to be doing better than other jurisdictions with just 65 test-positive cases, 64 of which have recovered as of this publication (June 15), the Cougars, Capitals and Bobcats have been in discussions for 2020-21 and how it might look different from a coaching, managerial and player perspective.
Unless instructed otherwise, this could potentially include sanitizing player stalls and dressing rooms more frequently and wearing face shields instead of cages.
Regardless of what the good ole’ hockey game will look like next year, Wilson tells PrinceGeorgeMatters the goal remains the same in developing athletes from the region, and as far as the territories, in providing players an avenue to pursue their hockey dream in a safe environment.
“We need to make sure that everything is in order because parents are trusting us with their kids,” he explained when asked if recruitment will look different as a result of the pandemic.
“Some areas have no cases at all, so, if anything, the only thing that’s different is just the uncertainty of the season and when we’ll start, which might be more difficult. We’re going ahead with the same recruiting tactics we’ve always used even at the peewee [U13] and bantam [U15] levels all these years in getting these guys here as fast as possible.”
BC Hockey is continuing to work with health authorities, Hockey Canada and our members to develop and update Return to Hockey guidelines.— BC Hockey (@BCHockey_Source) June 10, 2020
Our resource page:https://t.co/Z7NpZ7JUgl pic.twitter.com/fpgAphLGaK
Coaches have also been in touch with returning players explaining how they should be training in the off-season.
Wilson says Cariboo Hockey franchises want to get back on the ice as quickly as it can to try to finish what it started last year, but there also needs to be accountability between the organization, the Prince George community and public health officials.
“Stability comes with trust and we need to ensure that we have the parents' trust in keeping their kids safe at all times. That includes on the road, at school, at their billets house; that’s where we’ve always kind of built our organization around, ensuring player safety.”
The Cougars, Capitals, and Bobcats will still travel to other cities to play against other teams, at this point.
The 2021 BC Winter Classic in Nak'azdli Whut'en/Fort St. James also remains scheduled.
Cariboo Hockey says it’ll continue to provide more information about its upcoming sophomore season as the months progresses.