The Ridge Meadows Flames are getting set to play hockey this season, albeit a month later than usual.
The Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) has concluded its 2020 annual general meeting via video conference involving the league office and its 13 member teams.
“The league is now preparing for its 55th season of junior hockey and the board of governors is dedicated to returning to the ice for the 2020-21 season in a safe manner in accordance with the advice from the appropriate health authorities,” said a press release.
The 2020-21 PJHL season will consist of a 44-game regular season schedule, projected to start Sept. 29. Traditionally, the league starts right after Labour Day.
“It’s encouraging news and it’s good to get a target date,” said Flames GM Derek Bedard. “We’re really excited about it.”
The GM said his team is looking good for the coming season, and is skating twice a week this month. There is a restriction of maximum 20 players on the ice at a time.
The Flames graduated a lot of 20-year-old players, but return a strong core. The potent line of Nicholas Amsler, Ryan Denny and Jayden Genberg will lead the offence, and a veteran blueline group of five players headed by Maple Ridge’s own Emmett Garrett, will take care of the defensive end.
The team is also in a “changeover cycle,” said Bedard, and has been bringing in young players. New flames include Jayden Salmon, who was the captain of the Cloverdale Midget A1 team last season, and Gavin Bains of Cloverdale was with the Greater Vancouver Canadians Major Midget team last year.
The schedule will consist of each team playing a single interlock game against the opposing conference as well as two games at the 2021 PJHL Winter Classic Showcase scheduled for Jan. 1-3, 2021 at Minoru Arena in Richmond.
Other regularly scheduled events include the annual Prospects Game and All Star Game in partnership with the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Venues and dates will be announced at a later date.
“Our board has been very diligent in their communications with their facilities,” said commissioner Trevor Alto. “Both league and team return to play plans are in place and being monitored. With the increased opening of facilities, we are confident we can execute these plans and return to the ice safely.”
The PJHL acknowledged former president Ray Stonehouse’s induction into the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame. Stonehouse was also a longtime Ridge Meadows Flames owner.
Unfortunately the annual induction will not take place this year, however the league congratulated Stonehouse on his many years of service to Hockey in B.C.
New this year
• The expansion Chilliwack Jets have been approved by the league, and will begin play in the 2020-21 PJHL season. The Jets will be led by General Manager and Head Coach Clayton Robinson and will be in the Harold Brittain Conference.
• All three B.C.-based Junior B hockey leagues have adopted an NHL-style overtime format for the 2020-21 season that includes five minutes of three-on-three play. Should teams still be tied after the initial overtime period, a shootout will take place until a winner is declared.
• The PJHL has established several task groups for the purpose of approaching current league issues and developing future plans for the league. These groups include a Return-to-Play group which is responsible for reviewing all return-to-play plans for member teams and facilities. All task groups consist of members of the league office and member team representatives.