[This story originally appeared on The North Coast Review, a blog based in Prince Rupert that contains “items of interest to those living on the North Coast of BC.”]
As British Columbia starts to move out of its long period of COVID hibernation, one of the key foundations for many communities of the Highway 16 corridor and into the Cariboo is getting ready to resume its operations.
The Central Interior Hockey League is starting to prepare for a potential September return. The seven team circuit suspended its operations for 2020-21. That decision, while hard for league officials and fans, was also a necessary one as larger gatherings were banished for much of the last eighteen months.
Now that the province has released its Restart program, league officials feel sufficiently confident for the future to begin to ramp up their planning for 2021-22.
League President Ron German, who also is the architect of the Prince Rupert Rampage, is looking for confirmation from all of the teams by July 1st and the indications seem positive for all seven to return to the ice.
This season may also bring a new entry to the circuit, with plans in motion to introduce the Nechako North Stars to CIHL play this fall. The team would play out of Vanderhoof. It would mark a return to the CIHL for the region, which previously hosted the Omenica Ice.
The North Stars have launched a Facebook page to spread word of their plans.
While the CIHL makes its moves towards a return to the ice, there is also some potential competition brewing in some of the communities of the region, with an unsanctioned junior league making some enquiries around the Northwest.
The GMHL (Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League) which is a league out of the Ontario region, has put out some feelers for potentially locating franchises in British Columbia, having recently contacted municipal councils in Smithers, Houston and Kitimat.
So far they have not expanded much on what they would have planned or how their operations would move forward. As well, the league seems to have developed a bit of a chequered record in some of its past ventures in Alberta.
For most communities, the CIHL is the familiar face and one which is heavily invested in their communities, so the threat probably isn’t one to be too concerned about or one likely to see much in the way of progress.
An example of that community focus can be found from the Prince Rupert Rampage, which in recent weeks has been helping lead the push towards full vaccination for COVID for the community, with members and officials of the team featured on the team’s Facebook page as they received their second shots at the ongoing clinic at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre.
If all goes well, they’ll move over to the rink at the Jim in September and the roar will finally return to the McBride Street madhouse.
You can keep up today on the CIHL and the Rampage through the team’s social media feed.