It’s one of the sure signs of the arrival of autumn — hockey begins in Cranbrook — though it will arrive about a month later than normally.
That’s right — two years after their inception, the Cranbrook Bucks are set to finally begin a regular season of Junior A hockey at their home confines of Western Financial Place.
The BCHL released its full 54-game schedule this week for the 2021-22 regular season. It’s set to begin Friday, Oct. 8. The latest ever start in league history, it’s about a month later than a normal regular season would begin. The season will conclude Sunday, March 20, 2022, with playoffs to begin March 25.
BCHL training camps are set to open on September 17, 2021.
The delay to the start of the season is in partly in hopes that fan attendance can get back to normal, pre-pandemic levels.
The Bucks begin their season with a home-and-away against their now familiar rivals, the Trail Smoke Eaters — Friday, Oct. 8, at Western Financial Place, and Saturday, Oct. 9, at Cominco Arena in Trail.
“We are excited to turn the page and get back to competing for a Fred Page Cup in 2021-22,” said BCHL Deputy Commissioner Steven Cocker. “With our schedule now out, players as well as fans will have the opportunity to look ahead to key dates and get excited for our 60th Anniversary season.”
The BCHL played a truncated regular 2021 regular season in five regional bubble locations without fans. The Bucks got to know the Smoke Eaters and the Penticton Vees in their time in the Penticton bubble, and ended with a 3-16 record (plus one shoot-out loss).
The league will also see changes to the usual four-division format, instead adopting two conferences with nine teams in each. The seven-team Interior Division will now become the Interior Conference with the addition of Prince George and the expansion Cranbrook Bucks. The remaining nine island and coastal divisions will make up the Coastal conference. Teams will play 44 games in their own conference, facing each opponent five times, and two seven times. They will play each team in the other conference once, and one club twice.
The League has also made steps to strengthen player safety, correct calls at ice level if required, and implement stricter rules against fighting.