When the Central Interior Hockey League returns Oct. 16, it will be missing the Smithers Steelheads.
“It’s with sadness and disappointment we have to announce the Smithers Steelheads will not be participating in the CIHL this season,” the team said in a Facebook post last week.
The Steelheads had intended to be back this year after COVID-19 cancelled the 2020-2021 season, but ongoing pandemic-related issues led the team to believe it would be “unable to provide community events and deliver the best outcome we had set forth.”
Prior to the announcement, the team had made preparations, including petitioning town council to support a liquor licence for a beer garden, and completed a roster for the season.
“We would like to thank the 35+ athletes, and many volunteers who have been supportive and understanding throughout this whole process,” the post continued.
“We are thankful for such a great turnout at tryouts this year, we are sorry that the athletes will not be on the ice this season, we hope to see everyone next year.
“This will not defeat us, we will be back with twice as much passion and dedication to our community and athletes.”
The CIHL season will proceed with the seven remaining teams: The Prince Rupert Rampage, Terrace River Kings, Kitimat Ice Demons Hazelton Wolverines, Nechako North Stars (new this year), Williams Lake Stampeders and Quesnel Kangaroos.
“I think it’s going to be pretty electrifying,” said Ron German, CIHL president. “I think people are going to be ready for a good outing. I think every team in the league is going to supply some good entertainment in the communities that they’re in.”
German was particularly happy about the North Stars, a combined Vanderhoof and Fort St. James team.
“The team returning this year is huge,” German said. “It’s exciting to get them back in the league… the players are going to be excited to play for their fans and the fans are going to be excited to see their local boys and teams.”
Capacity at seated events in B.C. due to COVID-19 restrictions is currently limited to either 50 people or 50 per cent of maximum seats, whichever number is larger.
As of Sept. 13, proof of one dose of a vaccine will be required to enter seated events. After Oct. 24, when the season is in full swing, proof of full vaccination will be required for entry. This includes all athletes, staff, volunteers and spectators.
The season kicks off Oct. 16 with a matchup between the Rampage and Ice Demons in Prince Rupert.
The Jim Ciccone Civic Centre, with a capacity of 1,000 will allow a maximum of 500 spectators and will be serving beer.
With files from Norman Galimski, Local Journalism Initiative reporter