In the same week that the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020-2021 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, student-athletes on the Selkirk College Saints found brightness through focus on community leadership.
On Nov. 26, the BCIHL announced its decision to cancel official competition until the start of the 2021-22 season. Though hopes for a shot at a provincial hockey championship have been dashed, Saints’ players were out in full force in both Castlegar and Nelson on Saturday gathering non-perishable items for both the Selkirk College Student Food Bank and other regional food banks. In total, their efforts gathered close to 1,500 items and raised more than $900.
“Like all students at the college, these players are having to deal with forces completely out of their control and grapple with personal disappointment to make sure we keep the health and safety of our communities as the top priority,” says Selkirk College head coach Dave Hnatiuk. “I am extremely proud of these young men, they brought terrific enthusiasm to our annual food drive and the result of their efforts will help others. There is so much more to playing on a hockey team than what happens on the ice and this type of community leadership is a great example.”
The BCIHL season was previously scheduled to begin its regular season on Jan. 15, 2021. Working closely with BC Hockey, league organizers decided that heightened restrictions related to the pandemic made it too difficult to forge ahead with an already shortened season. The BCIHL’s decision does not prevent member teams from pursuing exhibition games or tournaments within the guidelines allowed by their institutions, facilities and the provincial government.
“We continue to support our teams and their players as they navigate this challenging time and focus on providing as much off-ice value as possible,” says BCIHL President Chris Munshaw. “We thank each of our member athletic departments for supporting our league during this offseason and helping us explore the opportunities for competition. This decision was made in consideration of the health and safety of everyone involved, as well as our league’s ability to safely hold a regular season and championship within the current climate.”
Now in his second full season as Selkirk College’s head coach, Hnatiuk recruited student-athletes from across Canada to attend post-secondary in the West Kootenay. Despite the pandemic uncertainty, student-athletes have been immersed in their studies in a variety of programs since September. While continuing to practice and train within Provincial Health Office (PHO) guidelines, the team is making the best of difficult situation.
“It’s not easy to train at a high level without the prospect of proper competition,” says Hnatiuk. “But this team is committed to their improvement as players, to their studies in the classroom and to the community that has shown such amazing support for this program over the years. We will continue to provide opportunities in the next semester for our players to develop what they need to be successful when they graduate from Selkirk College.”