No fans. No gate receipts for a year.
No time to sound the alarm for Vernon Vipers ownership.
John Glen, who owns the B.C. Hockey League club with his brother, Tom, said his family remains in for the long haul with the league’s status for 2021 still up in the air.
“There is no panic button being pushed in Vernon,” said Glen. “I will say, though, the recruiting for next year has been a challenge. There’s no denying the losses, however, our business team has continued to do business with some of our long-term partners. Obviously, we have had to be somewhat creative, as most of our partners are feeling the pinch as well.”
The league hasn’t played any games since Nov. 19 when exhibition contests were cancelled due to COVID-19. The Vipers, Salmon Arm SilverBacks, West Kelowna Warriors and Penticton Vees played an Okanagan Cup exhibition series with the Vees beating Vernon in the Cup final.
There haven’t been any meaningful games played since the league shut down for the pandemic after the first round of the 2019-20 playoffs in March 2020.
On Saturday, Feb. 27, Nanaimo Clippers owner Wes Mussio took to Facebook to announce his franchise was up for sale and told Black Press’ Nanaimo News Bulletin he had already had a dozen inquiries.
Mussio mentioned a lack of support from the provincial government for the BCHL and its franchises.
Glen said the BCHL, in conjunction with the Western Hockey League, has had ongoing conversations with the provincial government as far as some support funding goes.
“We’ve also been in contact with our local municipal government, which has been very supportive,” said Glen.
The WHL announced this week that its B.C.-based franchises would return to play in hub cities of Kelowna and Kamloops.
“A hub model has been discussed (by the BCHL) but the difference is numbers,” said Glen. “The WHL has five (B.C.) teams, the BCHL has 17. It’s my understanding the PHO (provincial health officer) was hesitant of allowing more than three or four teams into a hub.”
Mussio said in his interview he “doesn’t see a chance of hockey returning as normal this year, next year and maybe not even the year after that. Without fans, it’s over for the Clippers.” Glen is more optimistic.
“I believe that once B.C. Health gets the vaccines into the general population, and hopefully gets the case counts down to zero (or a very low number), we should have a path for a return to play,” he said. “Obviously there may be some restrictions, however, we certainly hope the great fans of Vernon are back in the rink sooner than later. Trust that science will prevail.”
The Glens purchased the Vipers from the family of the late Dr. Duncan Wray, who owned the team for 26 years, in September 2018.