Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League has eyed Jan. 15 as a return date to action, pending provincial announcements. (Gordon Lee/Submitted)

Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League has eyed Jan. 15 as a return date to action, pending provincial announcements. (Gordon Lee/Submitted)

Junior B hockey games resume on Vancouver Island Jan. 15, pending provincial announcements

Teams to play in three regional cohorts

It is a case of bad news and good for fans of Junior B hockey on Vancouver Island.

On Tuesday, BC Hockey announced the cancellation of the 2021 Cyclone Taylor Cup, the championship tournament that sees the winner of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) compete with the respective league winners from the International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL), the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL), and a host for the trophy bearing the name of the iconic, Hall of Fame hockey player.

“BC Hockey’s priority remains the health and safety of all participants and our communities,” said Cameron Hope, chief executive officer of BC Hockey. “The decision to cancel these events is the safest and best decision in light of continued uncertainty of this pandemic and the competition and travel implications associated with these events.”

The cancellation marks the second time in as many years BC Hockey had to cancel the event because of COVID-19, which the Delta Ice Hawks were to have hosted this year. The cancelled 2020 edition was scheduled for 100 Mile House at the start of the pandemic.

However, the VIJHL plans to resume games on Jan. 15 after having suspended play on Nov. 21, 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions, according to Pete Zubersky, general manager of the Peninsula Panthers, pending provincial announcements later this week. “We will start practice [without contact] tonight [Monday] and to say our guys are antsy is an absolute understatement,” he said. KIJHL has also identified Jan. 15 as a starting date.

RELATED: Vancouver Island Junior Hockey suspends play following new COVID-19 restrictions

According to Zubersky, VIJHL teams will play in three cohorts – a four-team cohort of Victoria Cougars, Saanich Predators, Westshore Wolves and Peninsula Panthers; a three-team cohort of Kerry Park Islanders, Nanaimo Buccaneers, and Oceanside Generals and a two-team cohort of the Campbell River Storm and the Comox Valley Glacier Kings. Pending league approval, cohorts will draw up their own schedule, with the league having approved the schedule for the Greater Victoria cohort.

Much remains uncertain, but one fact has already become clear. “The pandemic has caused a huge financial strain on all the teams in the VIJHL including the Peninsula Panthers with no fans and sponsorship cuts,” Zubersky said. “I am hopeful and believe that in September we will have all been immunized and we will have a normal 2021/22 season.”

For now, the Panthers are focusing on getting ready for the rest of the season. “The kids are missing the game more than they could have imagined, I see that is an upside to an otherwise horrible situation,” said Zubersky.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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