A handful of changes for the upcoming Pacific Junior Hockey League season have been announced, following a meeting with officials from the league office and its 13 teams.
The moves are meant to “ensure a safe return to sport for all participants” the junior ‘B’ hockey league announced in a news release Sept. 4, and come on the heels of viaSport announcing a move into Phase 3 of the province’s return-to-play guidelines.
The biggest change that will occur for the 2020-‘21 season is the creation of ‘cohort divisions’ consisting of a maximum of four teams, as opposed to the league’s traditional tw0-conference format.
As well, the PJHL announced that it has instituted a roster deadline of Sept. 15, at which time teams must have their rosters pared down to a maximum of 25 carded players. From that date forward, the league will also require that all new players who join a team quarantine for 14 days before participating in Phase 3 play.
Earlier this summer, the PJHL announced plans to start the regular season on Sept. 29.
“With viaSport’s announcement to move into Phase 3 Return to Play guidelines, it was appropriate to discuss in-depth and understand what this move would look like for our league,” said PJHL commissioner Trevor Alto.
“After such a difficult number of months since last season was cancelled, I feel this was a very positive meeting for the league. All 13 member teams have done an excellent job and worked extremely hard to get us in a position where we are able to make decisions that will allow us to return to competition.”
The new roster protocols may further cloud lineup decisions for some junior ‘B’ clubs as they adjust their teams on the fly once play begins. With both the junior ‘A’ BC Hockey League and the major-junior Western Hockey League not planning to begin play until closer to the end of the year, the trickle-down effect of players who are cut from higher levels – and potentially ending up with junior ‘B’ teams – could come in the heart of the PJHL schedule, rather than before the season starts or after the first few days.
White Rock Whalers head coach Jason Rogers told Peace Arch News last week that “nobody really knows” what affect the new COVID protocols, as well as the different start dates, will have on the season.
“It’s really hard to tell… In junior ‘A”, they’re proposing skates and camps (that last throughout the fall), and we expect to have one or two guys there, so that’s a challenge,” he said.
Alto said the two-week period between the roster deadline and the expected start of the season “allows our teams enough time to practice, quarantine as a team and understand the new league and facility protocols that will be in place in preparation to join their identified cohort at season start.”
“This will also allow flexibility with our start date, should we need to make adjustments,” he added.
Further details on the PJHL’s 2020-‘21 season would be released in the coming weeks, the releases noted.