Optimism is high the Cariboo Hockey Winter Classic will go ahead.
The Cariboo Cougars, Northern Capitals, Fraser Valley Rush and Fraser Valley Thunderbirds are set to participate in the annual fan-favorite with games played indoors and outdoors Saturday, Jan 22 and Sunday, Jan 23 in Vanderhoof and Fort St. James.
“These teams haven’t played each other in a while due to travel,” said Caleb Wilson, Cariboo Hockey director of media relations.
“A lot of games got postponed and moved around so it will be interesting to see these teams back in action.”
With COVID-19 challenging hockey games across the country, Wilson admitted things could change at any given moment.
Despite the uncertainty, the light remains green.
“Right now we’re going ahead as forward until we’re otherwise told by (provincial health officer) Dr. Bonnie Henry and the rest of the medical team that makes decisions,” Wilson said.
“It’s inevitable the unpredictability of the whole situation makes it difficult, but we still have to plan this as if anything is a go until told otherwise.”
For some players,this will be their first time playing on an outdoor rink.
In early 2020 more than 100 people took to Nak’azdli Whut’en’s outdoor Ernie Sam Memorial Arena to watch the Vancouver Northwest Hawks shutout the Cariboo Cougars 2-0.
The same year the BC Female Midget AAA League’s Northern Capitals became the first team to host a BC winter classic when they played a three-game series against the Greater Vancouver Comets at both the Vanderhoof Arena, Fort Forum and Ernie Sam Memorial Arena.
“The weather is unpredictable, COVID is unpredictable but we’re looking forward to it, and this is something that a lot of kids talk about at the younger age levels too—they’re like I want to have the opportunity to play in that winter classic,” Wilson said.
“It’s a one a kind opportunity and experience.”
This year’s Winter Classic gets underway Saturday afternoon, Jan. 22, when the Northern Capitals face off against the Fraser Valley Rush in Vanderhoof. The Cariboo Cougars will host the Fraser Vallery Thunderbirds Saturday night at the Ernie Sam Memorial Arena.
Sunday games will see the Northern Capitals and Fraser Valley Rush continuing their weekend doubleheader at the Ernie Sam Memorial Arena with the Fort Forum in Fort St. James hosting the U18-AAA male teams.