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KIJHL plans to apply for government financial support

KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois said teams already have suffered heavy financial losses due to the coronavirus and expects continued challenges when play resumes in the fall.

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) announced Tuesday in a media release that the Junior B league will seek financial assistance from the provincial and federal governments due to the monetary impact as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 20-team -Junior B league followed the lead of many other sports organizations around the globe in March by cancelling the remainder of the season when the pandemic heated up.

The KIJHL said teams already have suffered heavy financial losses due to the coronavirus and expects continued challenges when play resumes in the fall.

For that reason, the league, consisting of 13 community-owned teams and seven privately-owned clubs, is looking to the provincial government for support, and will also hope to tap into a program announced by the federal government that has earmarked $500 million towards arts, culture and sport organizations.

“Our league has been operating for more than 50 years and our teams make a huge impact in their communities, both on and off the ice," said KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois in the release.

"The reality we're facing now is that without some financial assistance from the government, (some teams)  may not be able to continue.

“When it comes to quantifying the negative financial impact on our league and teams, it's clear we’re feeling the effects in a number of different areas." 

In March, the eight teams still involved in the Teck Cup playoffs lost significant revenue upon the cancellation of the remainder of the season, including the Nelson Leafs and Beaver Valley Nitehawks.

The two Murdoch rivals were getting ready to play Game three of the Divisional Final when the KIJHL braintrust, in coordination with BC Hockey, was forced to suspend the series.

The decision to cancel the remainder of the season came down the following day.

The KIJHL said all 20 clubs are now managing without anticipated proceeds from annual spring tryout camps. The league's teams have already begun the process of tightening budgets ahead of the 2020/21 season, mindful of what is likely to amount to unprecedented lost revenue from decreased sponsorship and ticket sales.

"When you put all of that together, the impact at the individual team level could very well be in the tens of thousands of dollars," said Dubois. "And when you factor in all 20 teams in our league, it wouldn’t be a stretch to project an overall impact of a million dollars or more."

Beyond the troubling financial outlook, the KIJHL is keeping close tabs on the latest information from Hockey Canada and the relevant health authorities to determine when its teams can get back to on-ice activities.

The league hopes the season can start on time, but only if it is safe to do so. Dubois reiterates that the health and safety of the league's players, staff, volunteers, sponsors and fans is the No. 1 priority in every decision the KIJHL makes.  

"We’re hopeful that we can proceed with a full 2020/21 season beginning in September, but there are a number of hurdles to clear before we get to that point,” Dubois said.

“We’re thinking positively, because we know everybody involved with our league wants to be back on the ice, but we’re also planning ahead in case the season is delayed, or the financial challenges put us in a spot where plans have to change on the fly.”

The KIJHL said league management continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.