Surrey Eagles forward Christophe Tellier led the team in scoring this past season. (Garrett James photo)

‘If we can get back on the ice in July, we can make things happen’: Surrey Eagles owner

BC Hockey League seeks assist from provincial government amid COVID-19 pandemic

The BC Hockey League is reaching out to the provincial government for help as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively affect the junior ‘A’ hockey circuit and its teams, including the Surrey Eagles.

BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb – a Semiahmoo Peninsula resident – said the league has gathered letters of support from the mayors in each team’s market, as well as Kitimat, where last season the league held its first-ever BCHL Road Show event. Those letters were sent to the provincial government last weekend.

The hope is that a meeting or discussion could be had with both parties, which could lead to financial aid from the provincial government, which would help offset losses teams have faced as result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to be pro-active… so that’s why we’re trying to get out there now and tell our story,” Hebb told Peace Arch News Wednesday.

“At the end of the day, the league is a meaningful part of the British Columbia landscape – it’s been around for 59 years.

“It’s never had a dime of government support and there are other junior ‘A’ leagues around the country that do get government support, so we just felt it might be time to put our hand up and ask for a meeting.”

• READ ALSO: BCHL hockey playoffs continue – in video game action

• READ ALSO: Former Surrey Eagle home from ‘quiet, empty’ Italy after hockey season cancelled

In March, the league saw playoffs cancelled after the first round, and since then, teams have had to cancel spring camps that typically bring in thousands of dollars for each organization.

In Surrey, not only will the Eagles be forced to cancel or postpone spring sessions, owner Chuck Westgard is looking further ahead to the summer, too.

“It hurts a lot of the teams – all that (off-season) revenue is gone,” he told PAN.

“For us, is there a golf tournament in August? We generate probably $75,000 a year from that tournament, and even if we (are allowed) to hold it, will people be spending money after this? There’s just so much unknown.”

Hebb said that the league recently dipped into its contingency fund and distributed cheques to teams, which for the 2020/21 season is set to include the expansion Cranbrook Bucks.

“We wrote cheques to each team – not big cheques, but ones that can take a little bit of the sting out of (the situation),” Hebb said.

Adding to the pressure that some owners face is that their other businesses have also slowed or been shut down entirely.

“Most of the teams are owned by people who have other businesses that are also struggling,” said Westgard, who is a real-estate developer.

“But you can’t be mad – it’s one of those things you can’t control.”

It’s been suggested that the league could potentially lose teams as a result of the pandemic, though Hebb said those types of discussions – including, perhaps, the idea that organizations could take a one-year hiatus and return in 2021/22 – are still premature.

“Nobody – not a single team in our league – has indicated that, or said, ‘Look, we aren’t playing next year,’” said Hebb, who has been commissioner of the BCHL since 2018.

“Our owners are optimistic and so are we. Our intention is to play next season.”

While the Eagles are among teams that have felt a financial pinch – all staff have been temporarily laid off – the team will also make every effort to return.

“I will say that we’re going to do everything possible, and we’re planning on being back,” Westgard said. “We’re just doing whatever we can to stay financially alive, and everyone will be (hired) back the moment this is over.”

Typically, teams hold training camps in August, and regular-season play begins in September. Hebb said if the start of the next season is delayed, and puck drop is moved ahead to October or even November, the league would look at playing a reduced schedule.

Ultimately, however, Hockey Canada – the governing body for the sport in this country – in conjunction with health authorities, will make the call on when play resumes.

“They’re calling the shots,” Hebb said.

Westgard hoped that teams would be able to return to the ice by July, which would leave the Eagles with enough time to host some form of summer camp and prepare for the season.

“If we can get back on the ice in July, we can make things happen,” he said.



sports@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

BCHLCoronavirusSurrey Eagles

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police warn of ‘dangerous’ sex offender, with ‘high risk to re-offend,’ living in Surrey

Howard Geddes-Skelding, 28, was released from BC Corrections Aug. 14, Surrey RCMP say

Surrey students paint mural, paying homage to First Nations, at SkyTrain station

Artwork to showcase ‘positivity and racial inclusivity in the city’

PHOTOS: Residents showcased as ‘companion’ sculpture unveiled

Amica White Rock welcomes bronze guardian, celebrates resident talent

Homemade explosives detonated in South Surrey

Police asking public for help identifying those responsible

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

PHOTOS/VIDEO: Wings and Wheels set for weekend lift-off in Abbotsford

Fundraiser to raise money for Crystal Gala Foundation and the fight against breast cancer

Undercover video shows alleged animal abuse at Fraser Valley egg farm

One employee wearing logo of Chilliwack chicken-catching company already facing abuse charges

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

Most Read