Cowichan Valley Capitals players practice on Tuesday, Feb. 9 as they await word on a B.C. Hockey League season that has now been delayed until at least March. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan Valley Capitals players practice on Tuesday, Feb. 9 as they await word on a B.C. Hockey League season that has now been delayed until at least March. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan Capitals wait for word as BCHL season delayed until at least March

Players skate daily and stay positive

The B.C. Hockey League is now targetting March for the start of its 2020-21 season, and if that happens, the Cowichan Valley Capitals will be ready for action.

Even with no games scheduled for the immediate future, the Caps are still skating every day, the same as they have done since the league went on hiatus in November because of COVID-19 restrictions. The Caps haven’t played a game since Oct. 24.

According to head coach Brian Passmore, there are 18 players currently with the team, and four more waiting at home for the season to begin, which is a choice they are allowed to make. Passmore and his staff are trying to keep the players engaged in their fourth month without a game.

“We try to change it up and keep it interesting as coaches,” he said. “It’s been a challenge. There are days when it’s good and it’s fun, and there are days where you’re just tired of this.”

The players have stayed positive as they arrive at the rink each day to further uncertainty.

“I’ve been really, really impressed with how upbeat they are,” Passmore said. “They know they’re fortunate to be doing what they are when kids in other provinces aren’t able to.”

There might be one thing that gets the players down, the coach speculated.

“I think the players are tired of my speech: ‘Sorry, we can’t play. It’s been pushed back again,” he said.

The Provincial Health Office announced the extension of health orders prohibiting large gatherings on Friday, Feb. 5. The BCHL responded by setting March as the new target. The league had hoped to begin regular season play this week had the news been better.

“We are disappointed that we are once again forced to delay the 2020-21 regular season, but we support the PHO in their efforts to protect the health and safety of British Columbians,” said BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb. “We continue to work closely with the PHO on how we can safely resume play. This includes potential pods in select BCHL cities throughout the province.”

Also last Friday, Hockey Canada announced that all of its 2021 spring championships are cancelled, including the Centennial Cup national junior A tournament, which was scheduled to take place in Penticton.

In anticipation of a potential season in one form or another, the Caps have continued to make transactions, most recently acquiring 2002-born defenceman Owen Philps from the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League for future considerations. The West Vancouver product played two games with the Trail Smoke Eaters during the extended training camp period in the fall, then signed with Notre Dame, where he went without a point in four games.

Also skating with the team right now is Victoria Royals prospect Cage Newans. From Parksville, Newans played with the junior B Oceanside Generals last year and got into one playoff game with the Caps as an AP. Other WHL players who had been with the team, including Ty Gibson and Aidan De La Gorgendiere are quarantining now, as the WHL, or at least some of its teams, have announced their intentions of playing games in the near future.

There is still the potential for more moves, especially if the season does go forward. The Caps have room for one more 20-year-old, and the trade deadline is set for Feb. 25.

“If we get the word we are playing, we would probably add two or three more [players],” Passmore said. “There’s a mountain of 20-year-olds across the country just waiting to play anywhere there’s hockey.”

With files from Black Press Media