While fueled by eagerness to get back on the ice, the Victoria Royals remain in limbo as the B.C. division is the lone WHL jurisdiction without an approved return-to-play plan.
The Royals’ general manager and head coach said the team is excited to play as the rest of the league has finalized return strategies.
“That just fuels the competitive juices when they see other teams and other players around the league playing,” Dan Price told Black Press Media Friday. “They’re going to be watching that and following that very closely, we all are, but it’s also going to make them even more eager to get back.”
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said during a Feb. 16 COVID-19 update that she hasn’t received an updated proposal from the WHL “in the last few weeks,” adding she would review such a proposal as long as case trends are going in the right direction.
“I hope that if we continue on the trajectory we are, that we’ll be able to salvage a season come March or April,” Henry said.
Price said the league has been “very thorough” in its return-to-play efforts.
“I’ve been very impressed by the efforts by the league, extremely thorough, extremely diligent, extremely timely,” he said. “They’re doing everything they can to help us return to play.”
The Royals’ focus right now, Price said, is giving players a positive experience so they can continue their hockey and personal development.
The teenage players are currently back in their hometowns, so their remote on- and off-ice training is subject to the health protocols and restrictions of their respective area.
“The players are doing whatever they can within those jurisdictions,” Price said.
The Royals are frequently keeping in touch with the players to ensure they’re ready both physically and mentally. The GM said they’re looking at a potential shortened season with a glass-half-full mentality.
“At this point, any games that we can play are a good thing, as long as we can play them safely,” he said. “So the players are seeing this as a real opportunity.”
Royals players have seen a varied level of competition since the pandemic began, including the AHL, lower junior leagues and no games at all.
“There’s been a real spectrum there as far as the overall ability to play in competitive games, but there are some players that have played zero competitive games for 11 months,” Price said.
That’s why durability has a been a central message the team is conveying to players.
“Things like flexibility, range of motion, recovery, so that when we get back to it, we’re avoiding injury and we’re staying as healthy as possible, while also being fit and fast and competitive on the ice,” Price said.