Langley Rivermen forward Sean Bunting speeds away from Vernon defenders during the Rivermen’s 3-1 B.C. Hockey League win Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 in Vernon. Bunting and fellow U.S.-born Rivermen player Hunter McCoy are now playing in the U.S. after the team opted for an all-Canadian line-up during the pandemic. (Black Press Media file)

Langley Rivermen forward Sean Bunting speeds away from Vernon defenders during the Rivermen’s 3-1 B.C. Hockey League win Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 in Vernon. Bunting and fellow U.S.-born Rivermen player Hunter McCoy are now playing in the U.S. after the team opted for an all-Canadian line-up during the pandemic. (Black Press Media file)

Langley Rivermen go with all-Canadian roster during pandemic

Concerns about potential problems posed by U.S. during pandemic led to decision

Langley Rivermen are fielding an all-Canadian roster of players as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We just thought that was the right thing to do,” explained Rivermen head coach and general manager Bobby Henderson, who noted other teams in the BC Hockey League (BCHL) are fielding American players.

“Normally, we would be allowed to have six [U.S. players on the roster].”

Henderson said there were concerns about potential problems that could be created if a U.S. player turned out to have COVID-19.

Opting for only Canadian talent also means the Langley team doesn’t have find as many billets for out-of-town players, something that is proving to be a headache for other teams in the BCHL.

“We’ve got two kids from Ontario, and they’ve got billets,” Henderson noted.

Surrey Eagles billet co-ordinator, Jim Turton told Black Press Media some players on that team were still without permanent places to stay.

He reported some families that have served as billets in the past have declined this year because of COVID-19 concerns and a desire to keep their social bubbles as small as possible, and some have less space in their home than they had previously, with spare bedrooms serving as home offices.

READ ALSO: BCHL team in ‘desperate’ need of billet families for upcoming hockey season

Going all-Canadian means the two American players who were on the Rivermen roster are now playing south of the border; forwards Sean Bunting, from Phoenix, Arizona, and Hunter McCoy, from Newburyport, MA.

“They’re playing in the North American league [south of the border],” Henderson reported.

READ ALSO: Langley Rivermen force exhibition game into overtime before 2-1 loss

Rivermen have been playing exhibition games to prepare for the tentative start of the 2020-21 regular season on Dec. 1.

A Sunday, Oct. 24 game against the Surrey Eagles was called off after a Surrey player tested positive for COVID-19.

BCHL said the athlete was placed in a 14-day quarantine and all other players and team personnel have been tested.



dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

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