Vipers-Warriors in the pod

Cameron Hicklin of the West Kelowna Warriors battles for puck possession against Jojo Tanaka-Campbell of the Vernon Vipers during action in the recently completed BCHL pod season.

After wrapping up a 20-game pod season that was the best it could manage during the pandemic, the BCHL is planning for a more normal 2021-22 campaign.

The league this week unveiled the schedule for next season, which includes 54 games for each of its 18 teams beginning in early October.

“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 in a press release.

“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.”

Training camps will open Sept. 17 with the first league games set for Oct. 8. Opening night features the Vernon Vipers in Penticton to face the Vees, while the Okanagan’s other team, the West Kelowna Warriors, begins play Oct. 9 at home to the Prince George Spruce Kings.

A showcase event, at which all BCHL clubs will gather in one city for wall-to-wall action in front of a sea of scouts, is tentatively set for Oct. 20-25 in a community to be named later.

The regular season is set to conclude March 20, with playoffs starting March 25.

The BCHL staged regional exhibition games, including the four-team Okanagan Cup, last fall in anticipation of opening the 2020-21 regular season Dec. 1, but wasn’t able to get clearance from health officials to go ahead with its plans.

The league eventually settled on the pod concept, which saw its teams grouped in five cities for 20 games each, the last of which was played in early May, and with no playoffs afterwards.