Dozens of fans took to the ice at George Preston arena Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, for a traditional post-game skate with the Langley Rivermen (Langley Advance Times file )

Rivermen are raring to go back on the ice

Langley gets ready to open training camp

As he prepares to get his team back on the ice, Langley Rivermen head coach and general manager Bobby Henderson is dealing with a lot of uncertainty, the result of the COVID-19 pandemic that will likely mean some major changes when play resumes in December.

“There’s still lots of questions and not a lot of answers,” Henderson told the Langley Advance Times.

Henderson said the new version of the team will be a bit younger, and, possibly, bigger than the team he helmed last season, but the details will depend on who does how well when practices begin at the Lodge arena in the George Preston Recreation Centre on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

“There’s still a lot of balls in the air,” Henderson commented.

READ ALSO: Langley Rivermen’s season being planned around potential second-wave of COVID

He said the players he’s spoken to are “grateful” to be getting back in action.

“They’re just happy to be active and working again.”

Tentatively, they will be playing for an audience when the season starts, but it will be smaller, about a quarter of the usual amount in order to preserve distancing.

As proposed, ticket sales would be limited to 25 per cent of capacity on a first-come, first-serve basis, which gives the Rivermen room for a maximum of 280 fans in the building at one time.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Skate brings Rivermen and fans together

If health authorities decide a bigger percentage can be admitted safely, the limit will be raised.

When the BC Hockey League (BCHL) announced it was planning to start the 2020-21 regular season on Dec. 1, BCHL Commissioner Chris Hebb said waiting until December gave them the ” best chance at ensuring we have an uninterrupted season, while also maximizing the amount of regular-season games we’ll be able to play.”

A lot depends on whether there is a second wave of coronovirus, explained BCHL Board of Directors chairman Graham Fraser.

Fraser said it became clear from BCHL discussions with the provincial health office (PHO), that the best way to allow spectators to be in the stands, would be to delay the start of season to give the PHO time to assess the effects of a potential second wave of COVID-19 during flu season.

Once the province moves Phase three of viaSport BC’s Return to Play model, exhibition competition with other BCHL teams will be expanded.

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