The 2020-21 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season could begin as soon as the third or fourth week of September, according to a post on the league’s website on Friday, Sept. 4.
Owners and coaches — in the case of the Kerry Park Islanders, those roles are both filled by Brandon Cox — around the league are working hard to finalize the date. Once the season starts, the league noted, it won’t look like past years.
Between protocols determined by viaSport, BC Hockey, Hockey Canada and facility operators, teams will have a number of restrictions to follow.
Teams are only allowed to play in “cohorts” of four teams or fewer. Once a team joins a cohort, it can’t play games against teams outside that cohort unless all the players on the team go into a two-week quarantine. If even one player wants to leave his team in order to play with a team outside the cohort — in a junior A or midget league, perhaps, in the case of junior B hockey — the player would have to self-quarantine for 14 days before he can join a new team.
One of the issues for the VIJHL is that it consists of nine clubs, which has made it difficult to put them into cohorts, the website posting said.
“It is the hope of the league that we can announce a confirmed start date and a limited schedule for only the first four or five weeks of the season within the next two weeks,” the league stated.
“The schedule will be a limited version at this time as we hope to have the capability of rearranging the cohort groupings after this period and as always, things could change and there may be new restrictions to adhere to.”
The post also noted that every arena in the league has different protocols and restrictions, including whether or not fans are allowed to attend games and how many. Regardless, all games will still be streamed live on HockeyTV.
Another of B.C.’s junior B hockey leagues, the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, announced last week that its season will begin on Nov. 13, with 17 teams playing a 30-game regular-season schedule. The 100 Mile House Wranglers and Beaver Valley Nitehawks have opted to take a one-year leave of absence, while the Spokane Braves are unable to participate due to travel restrictions between Canada and the U.S.
For their part, the Islanders have announced another batch of signings for the 2020-21 season, including the return of forward Cole Amado for his third campaign with the club. A 20-year-old product of Nanaimo, Amado had two goals, three assists and 36 penalty minutes in 44 games with the Isles last season. The previous year, he posted six goals, six helpers and 48 penalty minutes in 42 games.
Cowichan Valley product Parker Klippenstein is a new signing to the Islanders after spending last season with the Delta Hockey Academy. The 17-year-old previously played for the midget AAA North Island Silvertips in 2018-19, and has made some affiliate appearances with the VIJHL’s Nanaimo Buccaneers.
In addition to Klippenstein, the Isles have added two more former Silvertips on the blueline: Tynan Klein-Beekman, a 17-year-old from Port Alice, and Aidan Cook, a 16-year old from Nanaimo. Both players have affiliated with VIJHL teams in the past, Klein-Beekman with the Comox Valley Glacier Kings and Campbell River Storm, and Cook with the Oceanside Generals.
In another transaction, the Isles acquired forward Jackson Egan from the Victoria Cougars in exchange for a player development fee. The 19-year-old from Port Moody played 41 games for the Cougars last season, scoring seven goals and assisting on nine others, while accruing 44 penalty minutes.