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BCHL teams have lost collectively about $3M due to COVID-19

Spruce Kings-Poisson-Fred Page cup 2
Prince George Spruce Kings captain Ben Poisson receives the Fred Page Cup from BCHL Commissioner Chris Hebb (via BCHL)

Collectively, the 17 B.C.-based teams within the BC Hockey League have lost about $3 million in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league, along with most others around the world, was forced to shut down as a result of the pandemic.

Teams lost out on playoff revenue, money from spring and summer development camps, and are looking at the prospect of lower than normal ticket and sponsorship revenues for a 2020-2021 season that may, or may not be played.

League commissioner Chris Hebb, in an interview with Glacier Media this morning (April 22), says the league has reached out to Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Baere, asking for provincial assistance.

Hebb says the league sent a letter to the minister requesting a phone meeting.

"What we are asking for is to have a call and explain the dilemma the league is in. Hopefully there is a recognition of the value the BCHL brings to the province," said Hebb.

He says league teams spend approximately $750,000 each within their communities each year, as well as on travel.

The Wenatchee Wild have already received some financial support through U.S. government stimulus programs.

The league has already dipped into its contingency fund to help teams in the meantime.

"We did write the teams cheques to take some of the sting out of it, but they were small cheques. It certainly doesn't come anywhere near what we need."

Financial stability of each of the league franchises is only one part of an ever evolving equation. There is also the question of when it will be deemed safe enough for the game to return.

There has been talk that, even as the curve continues to flatten, that social distancing and measures around gathering size could remain in place until a vaccine has been created, which could put a return to hockey, at least with fans in the building, in jeopardy for the upcoming season.

But, Hebb is optimist a season will be played, and teams are making those preparations.

"We intend to play. Whether we start on time is going to depend on them (Hockey Canada).

"We're not sure how the return to hockey is going to be managed, but we feel strongly there is going to be Junior A hockey and the BCHL will be there.

As for the prospect of playing without fans in the building for at least a portion of the season, Hebb says it certainly wouldn't be the first choice of players and ownership, but, "anything is possible."

Hebb also threw cold water on some earlier reports that some teams were close to folding.

He said the league remains strong, but reiterated there is the need for government assistance.

The league, he says, will also be approaching the federal government about a $500 million for arts, sports and cultural sectors affected by COVID-19.

Municipal governments have also been approached to support local teams in their efforts for government funding.

The bottom line, says Hebb, is they want to see the kids return to the ice.

And, he believes when that happens, the league will be as strong as ever.

"We're a resilient league. We've been around almost 59 years, and nothing is going to take us down."

- with files from Nicholas Johansen, Castanet

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