New initiatives are on the way for the 2020-21 BCHL season, including harsher punishment.

The league held its Annual General Meeting through a number of video conferencing calls over the month of May, making changes related to on-ice procedures and player safety.

The new initiatives are part of the BCHL’s ‘Return to Play Task Force’ that was created, tasked with figuring out when next season’s schedule will begin, and working with the Provincial Health Authorities to implement new rules.

“Once we are told we are allowed to resume play from Hockey Canada and the Provincial Government, we want to make sure we are ready to go,” said BCHL Executive Director of Competition and Events, Steven Cocker. “This involves planning for several different scenarios, including start dates and attendance capacities, as directed by the Health Authorities. Creating the Task Force allows us to be as prepared as possible for a safe return to play, whenever we get the green light.”

One of the initiatives was to create a Department of Plater Safety, who would work similarly to that of the NHL’s in assessing if the proper call is made by the referee on an infraction.

The DOPS will also be visiting with each team during their training camps to set expectations on compliancy throughout the season, while if any individual player’s infractions is deemed too high, they will have to have an individual meeting with the Department.

The rules for fighting have also been made stricter: supplemental discipline will be necessary for any player after their second fight, whereas the previous number implemented was four.

Instigator penalties will be met with a “zero tolerance stance.”

“As a leader of developing college-bound student athletes, we feel this is a progressive step for the BCHL,” said Cocker. “The safety of our players is an integral part of any decision we make as a league and a stronger stance on fighting and zero-tolerance on instigators and aggressors is a great step forward. The game continues to evolve and move in the direction of speed and skill and we want to be on the forefront of that movement. Our Board of Governors will follow this closely and revisit at our 2021 Semi Annual Meeting to evaluate our progress in strengthening our player safety measures.”

Charging and slew-footing have also been met with stricter restrictions: both could more often be met with double-minor or match penalties, while an injury occurring from a slew-foot will be met with an automatic match penalty.

Outside of the new disciplinary rules, each team now must carry a portable defibrillator at all times.