CHEK Upside: Island sports teams hopeful for near return


On Tuesday, Dr. Bonnie Henry took to the podium ready to deliver some good news.

“This is indeed a good day and one that I’ve been waiting for for along time,” said Dr. Henry, as she unveiled the province’s re-opening plan.

It’s the province’s detailed plan that affects virtually every British Columbian in some way, including the many Vancouver Island sports teams and organizations that have been sidelined due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I was really pleasantly surprised to see how far Dr. Henry was able to go,” said Dan Price, Victoria Royals head coach and general manager. The Royals haven’t played a game on their home ice since March 2020.

If all goes according to the provincial government’s restart plan, with vaccination rates increasing and COVID cases decreasing, live sports games with fans in attendance could be a reality in the very near future.

“If we could start somewhere in late September, maybe early October as a target, that gives us a bit of a buffer,” said Price, who’s had multiple phone conversations with league officials in regards to returning to play. “I don’t want to jinx it, but I would say the optimism is very strong.”

The feeling is mutual with the Island’s pro soccer franchise Pacific FC.

“A lot of smiles today, I’ll tell you that,” said Brad Norris-Jones, Pacific FC’s vice president of operations.

October 2019 marked the last time PFC took to their home field in Langford, but with province’s plan to allow up to fifty spectators at outdoor sporting events as of June 15th, and possibly more by July 1st, things are heading in the right direction.

“July, possibly,” said Norris-Jones in regards to a start date. “We can have fans if we come up with a stadium plan that works with Island Health so we’re just really excited for all the great news.”

PFC team officials say, if needed, they could fit fifteen hundred fans into starlight stadium while maintaining proper physical distance guidelines.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre is set to play host to a FIBA men’s basketball Olympic qualifier next month from June 29th to July 4th. Organizers are hopeful to have some fans in attendance, as limited spectators could be allowed for indoor sports as of July 1st. For Island sports teams and fans, it’s been a long wait, but if all goes well, it’s game on.

“You know, it’s a lot of hard work for people in British Columbia to get to this point,” said Norris-Jones.

“If we can pull it off then the path is clear, so very strong sense of optimism,” said Price.

Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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