VICTORIA, B.C. – The British Columbia Hockey League’s plan for a safe return to play has been conditionally approved by the provincial health officer Friday.

“Sports are important for young people’s development, and we understand how hard the time away from friends and teammates has been,” says Health Minister Adrian Dix. “I know that Dr.[Bonnie] Henry and her team are working hard to determine how to safely return more leagues back into the field of play this spring.”

The league’s revised plan would allow for a five-week limited season starting in April, after completion of a pre-season quarantine plan. There are options for a postseason if protocols are relaxed and travel restrictions are lifted.

The 17 B.C. teams have 48 hours to opt-in or out of the return to play plan.  No teams have indicated a decision to opt-out, except for the Wenatchee Wild. Since the Wild play out of Washington, they will not be included in the shortened season due to border restrictions.

The plan has improved safety protocols in place, including health screening and testing for players and coaches. The BCHL has hired a Chief Medical Officer to monitor COVID-19 protocols for the season.

Travel will be limited as teams will play in five pod cities. Players, coaches, and staff will have limited interactions in the communities they play in.

The five pod cities will be Penticton, Coquitlam, Chilliwack, Vernon, and Port Alberni.

Based on modelling and data on COVID-19, variances to the gathering and events order allowing BCHL’s return to play may be amended from time to time.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan says the pandemic has disrupted our lives in countless ways.

“We have had to limit activities that are fundamental to our normal way of life,” says Horgan.

“While we are not out of the woods yet, there is hope on the horizon, and we are now ready to, gradually and safely, resume some of these activities. That includes getting young people back on the ice this season.”