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VIJHL teams will stay within own division, likely no fans in stands to start

The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season is taking shape.

Play was officially suspended on March 12th because of the pandemic.

Six months later, we’re seeing a light at the end of the junior B hockey tunnel for coaches, players, and fans.

The league announced last Friday that owners and coaches are “working hard to finalize a start date for this coming VIJHL season.”

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However, once all COVID-19 restrictions determined by both viaSport and BC Hockey/Hockey Canada have been applied, it won’t look like a usual season.

Every facility that’s being used in the league has different protocols and their own restrictions to work with. 

Fans may or may not be welcome to attend a game – if yes, usually at a reduced number. 

But all games will be live-streamed on HockeyTV.

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Mike Nesbitt is in his first season as head coach and general manager of the Comox Valley Glacier Kings.

Nesbitt says he’s asked his players to err on the side of caution.

“I think everybody’s grown to be patient with COVID,” Nesbitt added. 

“We don’t want to put anybody at risk. These guys are coming into their billet homes or their own homes and I’ve asked them to treat it like it’s a bubble. Don’t be going out to big events and things like that, and wear your mask, and be safe about it. You’ve got to play smart, here, because if one team gets it (the virus), we don’t know if there’s going to be the rest of the season.”

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The only way that a team can play in the VIJHL is for it to become part of a cohort, which basically means a group of teams.

Once you are a member of a cohort, you cannot play any teams outside that cohort unless your whole team goes into quarantine. 

Nesbitt says that means teams won’t be travelling very far.

“It’s a 50-person cohort and we’re only allowed to play in the North Division with four teams in that cohort,” he explained. 

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“So we’ll be going back-to-back with Campbell River the first weekend, and then we’ll go back-to-back with Oceanside, and then we’ll go back-to-back with Nanaimo. We’ll only play in the North Division to start, anyway, in phase three.”

He said that if we get to phase four, then “we can maybe have another league meeting and see if we can go from there, but right now, we’re just starting in the North Division.”

Even if a single player wanted to leave his team in a cohort and go play with a team in a different cohort – that player would have to self-quarantine for 14 days before he can join that new team.

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