VANCOUVER (CityNews) — B.C.’s COVID-19 orders have prohibited organized sports teams from playing games, but one league in the province says players need to get back to competition — before the restrictions do more harm than good.
The BC Hockey League is calling on health officials to allow them back on the ice. Teams had played about 20 games when the league was effectively shut down last November.
Tali Campbell, Coquitlam Express Vice President & General Manager, says a safe return to play can be ensured by implementing protocols.
“We have no fans, we have regular measures and checkups on our players, who would only be in a cohort system, so we’d only face four teams. A maximum of 100 kids at once playing each other,” she says.
“We are going to have a new pandemic of mental health if we don’t consider the implications going on right now.”
Junior hockey players have just a couple of seasons to impress college scouts and get on the radar of professional leagues, so each game is critical.
Some in the @GoBCHL say it's time to get back on the ice. This team GM worries about players' mental health, as scholarship opportunities and pro offers pass them by. He wants Dr. Henry to give junior hockey the green light
— Travis Prasad (@CityNewsTravis) February 1, 2021
Garry Valk’s son plays in the league.
“For my son, it’s his NHL draft year. He’s talking to big time universities in the states about scholarship opportunities. He’s missing his window,” he says.
“This is a unique situation, where these guys are elite athletes who’ve sacrificed their whole lives for this opportunity.”
Seeing players from other jurisdictions allowed to play, and being presented with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities has been stressful.
“Those kids are getting scholarships. So every time my son, or kids like my son, turn on their Twitter or social media they’re seeing kids get commitments to schools that they were talking to,” Valk says.
The Western Hockey League, was recently given the go-ahead by Alberta to start playing in that province again.
The Western Hockey League has been granted approval to return to play in Alberta.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) January 28, 2021
Dr. Bonnie Henry has said she understands how crucial sports and physical activity are to people’s well-being.
“We know physical activity is important for the mental health of children. We have been working with ViaSport to look at how we can make sports more available.”
The provincial order prohibiting gameplay expires this Friday. If restrictions are renewed, parents say time will run out for kids who’ve given their all to the game.
“When you age out you’re done. There’s no going back,” Valk says.