The City of Vernon will be one of five pod city hosts as the B.C. Hockey League will go with a condensed 2020-21 season.
The BCHL has worked with the office of the B.C. Provincial Health Officer (PHO) to develop an approved Safe Return to Play plan that allows for the return of gameplay in a safe manner for all involved.
“The city has worked closely with the Vernon Vipers and the BCHL to secure game times at Kal Tire Place with limited impact to current user groups,” said recreation customer service manager Leah Walker.
The other pod cities will be Penticton, Chilliwack, Coquitlam and Port Alberni.
Sixteen of the league’s 18 franchises will compete in the pod format.
The Langley Rivermen have opted out of the pod season and will join the league’s only American franchise, the Wenatchee Wild, on the outside looking in.
The Wild can’t take part due to border restrictions.
The Langley Rivermen have opted out of the 2021 BCHL Pod Concept.
All media enquiries can be directed to Jesse Adamson at the BC Hockey League Head Office. pic.twitter.com/PhrGWVpsnK
— Langley Rivermen (@LangleyRivermen) March 14, 2021
The BCHL will be announcing pod teams and a game schedule at a later date, identifying who else will play at Kal Tire Place.
“The Vernon Vipers truly appreciate the work that the City of Vernon and staff did in making this happen for us and the British Columbia Hockey League,” said Todd Miller, Vipers’ executive vice-president.
Miller said the league would likely be playing an 18-to-20 game schedule with no playoffs and no fans.
“It will be to showcase our players to scouts,” he said.
The Safe Return to Play plan, approved by the PHO, requires the teams to only play within their pods and strictly limits the number of people allowed in the building to those who are essential to make the game happen. This, unfortunately, means that spectators will not be able to be present for these games.
“The City of Vernon is excited to be named a host city for BCHL pod gameplay,” said Mayor Victor Cumming.
“We have missed having the Vernon Vipers on the ice and are excited to see this first step towards a return to play. We know many fans are anxious to get back in their seats to cheer on the team, but we’ll continue to wait patiently until the time comes that we can gather again safely and be among the hometown crowd.”