Derek Bedard, GM of the Ridge Meadows Flames, said the team will begin the coming season based in Abbotsford. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Flames will start new season based in Abbotsford

Junior B team could not find ice in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows

The Ridge Meadows Flames will be forced to start their season based in Abbotsford.

The Junior B team will be based out of the Rinks at Summit Centre until Christmas, then hope to return to Maple Ridge in the new year. The team had no choice, said the GM.

“It comes down to ice availability,” said team GM Derek Bedard, noting he contacted nine different facilities before finding one with ice time it could offer for twice-a-week practices and Sunday night games.

The city notified users in the middle of the month that there are problems at Planet Ice Maple Ridge which will necessitate “emergency life cycle repairs.” The two ice sheets require both a new condenser and repairs to the brine pipes under the concrete between the playing surfaces.

READ ALSO: Problems delay opening of sheets at Planet Ice Maple Ridge

Bedard said he didn’t have to consider local hockey fans in the move to Abbotsford, because “with this (COVID-19) pandemic, having fans isn’t going to be an option.”

The Pacific Junior Hockey League had been planning to start the new season on Sept. 29, but that has been pushed back into October.

The Flames have their first game time on Oct. 18, and Sunday nights will be their weekly game time in Abbotsford.

At this point, after all of the interruptions in people’s lives, Bedard said being able to look forward to a competitive hockey season feels like “a huge bonus.”

The PJHL recently held a special meeting to update the return to play plan for the 2020-21 season.

“We have indicated all along the importance of flexibility with our planning. All of our teams have completed their camps and identified their rosters as of Sept. 15. However at this time not all of our facilities are prepared to host game play by our previously identified date of Sept. 29,” said PJHL commissioner Trevor Alto. “We had identified this as a possibility and our schedule was prepared to make the adjustment. Our facilities are our partners and we need to continue to work together. Our teams have done an excellent job adhering to all return to play guidelines and are prepared to start play at the appropriate time.”

READ ALSO: Junior B teams creating a safe environment for hockey

The PJHL has adjusted the 2020-21 season to consist of a 36 game schedule. Teams will play in four separate cohorts consisting of three or four teams. In December, after the first 18 games, teams will then take a full league hiatus to quarantine for the second half, where the cohorts will then be adjusted for the remainder of the season and playoffs. That will give the Flames new competition.

Teams will be permitted to begin exhibition play with league approval immediately. As of Oct. 15, should cohorts and facilities be ready, teams may be approved to begin regular season play. However, teams and cohorts will be able to extend their exhibition play to the end of October, should they choose to. All teams are set to begin league play by Nov. 1.

In the coming weeks, the PJHL will be releasing the first half of the 2020-21 regular season schedule. The remainder of the schedule and playoff format will be provided during the December quarantine period.

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