The BCHL is feeling the financial crunch of the ongoing pandemic.

The Junior A league recently announced measures taken to request financial assistance from the Provincial government, in an effort to offset major losses for its teams.

“We have every intention of playing hockey next season, with all 18 of our teams, if we get the green light from Hockey Canada as well as the provincial health authorities,” said BCHL Commissioner Chris Hebb. “But, the reality is we’ve identified potential financial issues down the road due to this pandemic and want to address these problems now.”

Hebb added that the league has already lent its support to its teams through a contingency fund, but “it’s clear that more is needed.”

Most of the major losses can be attributed to the league shutting down after just the first round of the playoffs on March 13, upsetting the budget of the teams involved. The cancellation is spring camps has also closed a major source of revenue.

The Merritt Centennials spring camp was set to open on April 3, and was officially cancelled on March 16. Prices for the camp were marked at $225 per player.

“By sticking to the mandate of Hockey Canada we hope that we can resume hockey as we know it soon,” read a release from Business Operations Manager Jared Thomas.

A summer camp has been set in Abbotsford in June, though with an uncertain future under the current conditions, its fate hangs in the balance as well.

That, combined with a lack of knowledge about the 2020-21 season, sparked the plea for help.

“We are seeking the support of the B.C. government and are merely asking for a meeting to explain the economic, social and cultural impact of our teams on the 17 B.C. communities they represent,” said Graham Fraser, Chairman of the BCHL Board of Governors.

It was on April 15 that Hebb first made the suggestion that the league may be seeking Provincial assistance.

He commented that franchises had the possibility of closing if it did not come, adding that for many of the league’s small-town communities, these teams are basically “the Vancouver Canucks.”

“We understand that so many people are hurting out there. We don’t want to come off like bleeding hearts. But socially and culturally, it’s inarguable what these teams mean to those communities. And the financial impact of our league rarely gets told. You’re talking about hotel nights, restaurant meals and the people who work at the game.”

As for now, no club has yet given word that they will not be participating in the 2020-21 season. Hebb and his team are currently collecting letters of support, especially from some of the smaller markets like Merritt, to present to the Provincial government in his case for funding.

It is crucial that next season be played, perhaps the most important in the league’s to date in maintaining it’s position as a junior hockey powerhouse: it was announced last week that the BCHL set a new record of NCAA-committed players, with 172.

166 of those were Division I recruits, also a new record.