Jacob Slipec (left in white) is a player who earned a Chilliwack Chiefs roster spot with an impressive spring camp. The annual evaluation event is in danger this year due to COVID-19. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

COVID-19 disrupts offseason activities for BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs

Junior A hockey teams across the league will be trying to navigate through a tumultuous time.

Chilliwack Chiefs associate head coach and general manager Brad Rihela says the junior A club’s offseason recruiting efforts shouldn’t be hampered too much by COVID-19.

The Chiefs are fortunate to have a large number of players returning from this year’s team.

In another year, where more roster rebuilding was necessary, the disruption would be far greater.

“The impact is mainly in not being able to go to summer showcases or watch players on Hockey TV and other platforms because they’re cancelled, for the most part,” Rihela said. “And obviously, if a player or family wanted to come here to take a look at our facilities, with travel restrictions that’s another area that isn’t going to work.”

The workaround for problem number one is watching video, tons and tons of video.

READ MORE: High school athletes impacted by spring sports shutdown

READ MORE: Post secondary students at several schools asked to vacate dorms

Plenty of games were played before things shut down.

“And we will rely heavily on our past notes and what’s been entered into our scouting software,” Rihela added. “We are inputting data as it comes to us throughout the season. We input data as it comes to us from our scouts, and we have a really good scouting staff that we trust.

“We’ll also have a lot of communication with coaches and advisers.”

The Chiefs might lose their spring camp.

Rihela hopes they could re-schedule it to later in the year, after the COVID-19 crisis settles down.

“Technically speaking, yes everything is cancelled right now,” Rihela said. “Any Hockey Canada sanctioned event is cancelled right now.”

Spring camp is a very important event, not just for the season to come but for seasons after that.

“Over the last couple years, we’ve offered players spots directly out of that camp,” Rihela noted.

That list includes Colton Kitchen, Jacob Slipec, Jake Verri and Connor Milburn, who chose Salmon Arm and was re-acquired via trade.

“We also bring in all of our top prospects from all over North America, and there could be long term effects because those are a lot of young players who help build that future pipeline for us,” Rihela said. “We’re hopeful we can have some sort of evaluation camp at some point this summer, but ultimately we respect Hockey Canada’s decision because there are more important things than hockey to worry about.”


@ProgressSports
eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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