Jack Barnes, who was Cowichan Valley Capitals property from May 2020 until last week, scores a goal for the Penticton Vees during the 2019-20 BCHL season. (Brennan Phillips/Black Press)

Jack Barnes, who was Cowichan Valley Capitals property from May 2020 until last week, scores a goal for the Penticton Vees during the 2019-20 BCHL season. (Brennan Phillips/Black Press)

COVID-crunched BCHL facing trade deadline dilemma with its 20-year-olds

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

Tomorrow’s Canadian junior A hockey trade deadline has put BC Hockey League managers in a bit of a quandary.

Not knowing for sure if the BCHL would be able to resume play next month or not — depending on COVID-19 restrictions — Cowichan Valley Capitals head coach and general manager Brian Passmore is struggling to do right by his players, especially the 20-year-olds in their last year of eligibility.

If the BCHL does return to action, he will want those veterans in the lineup, but if it doesn’t, he would prefer to have sent them to another junior A league that is playing or will be playing this season.

“Obviously we have 20-year-old guys who want to go somewhere where they will be playing,” Passmore said, adding that “two or three” of the five 20-year-olds on the current roster have asked to be moved to a club that will be playing.

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If some or all of the five 20-year-olds end up going elsewhere, that will leave a good chunk of the 25-man roster empty.

“There will be a lot of holes there, and we need players who can play there, if we’re playing,” he noted.

The Alberta Junior Hockey League has confirmed that it will resume its season, which stopped in November, so he could send his veterans there to play. The Manitoba Junior Hockey League, on the other hand, has cancelled the remainder of the season, and Passmore has already arranged to acquire players from that league if the BCHL does get back in action.

It’s a tricky situation, regardless.

“It creates a lot of anxiety,” Passmore admitted. “We’re trying to keep guys if we’re playing, but at the same time, we’re looking for talented players coming in. We understand they want to play hockey. They’re 20 years old and looking at the future of their hockey careers. I still have a lot of optimism that we will play.”

While most Western Hockey League teams and the Alberta Junior Hockey League have announced their returns, the BCHL and the WHL’s five B.C.-based teams are still awaiting clearance to play this season. The BCHL played an exhibition season in the fall, but teams have been limited to practices since November. WHL teams in B.C. haven’t skated together at all.

The BCHL season has been delayed several times, most recently on Feb. 5 when the Provincial Health Office extended restrictions around mass gatherings and events until the beginning of March.

On Feb. 18, the BCHL received notice that multiple members of the Prince George Spruce Kings tested positive for COVID-19. According to the league, the Spruce Kings reached out to Northern Health, who then notified the Provincial Health Office. All affected team members and close contacts were placed in 14-day quarantine, and anyone showing symptoms will be tested as soon as possible.

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