The B.C. Hockey League completed its five-week pod season without a single positive COVID-19 test among its players.
According to league executive director Steven Cocker, the 16 participating teams had their players and team staff tested on five separate occasions through the 20-game schedule. He said it totalled over 2,000 tests and the team owners paid the costs for the exams.
There was one positive test with a team staff member, Cocker explained.
Players from 12 of the teams continued to live with their billet families throughout the pod season, which started April 2 and wrapped-up May 11. The Powell River Kings, Cranbrook Bucks, Trail Smoke Eaters and the Prince George Spruce Kings stayed in hotels during that period.
“We are very proud of our athletes, coaches, support staff and medical personnel for their diligence in following the safety protocols. Completing 160 games without an athlete testing positive is no small feat,” Cocker explained in an email.
The Penticton Vees (18-1-0-1), who hosted a pod with the Smoke Eaters and the Bucks, and the Surrey Eagles (17-2-1-0), who played Powell River and the Coquitlam Express in a pod in Burnaby, had the league’s best records.
Surrey winger Christian Fitzgerald led the pod season in scoring, putting up 33 points, including 13 goals, in 19 games. Fitzgerald, an 18-year-old from Coquitlam who’s in his second season with the Eagles, is committed to Minnesota State University.
Victoria Grizzlies forward Ellis Rickwood (30 points) and Surrey centre Holden Katzalay (30 points) were next in scoring. Salmon Silverbacks forward Simon Tassy led the way in goals, his 18 markers helping him to 27 points.
Vees netminder Kaeden Lane topped the wins column (15), goals-against average (1.13), save percentage (0.951) and shutouts (five).
The league was slated to be 18 teams this season. The Wenatchee Wild opted out of this season early on due to COVID-19 restrictions in Washington state and issues with border travel, and the Langley Rivermen opted out just before the pod season.
The league played an extended exhibition schedule from Sept. 25 to Nov. 19, 2020. Restrictions to curtail COVID-19, which included forbidding game play between teams, left the BCHL in practice-only mode after that until the pod season began.