Strong gratitude is helping the Salmon Arm Silverbacks handle the unique conditions for Junior Hockey created by the COVID-19 pandemic — gratitude that they have their sticks back on the ice.
Since April 2, the Silverbacks have been playing in a three-team bubble with the Vernon Vipers and the West Kelowna Warriors with all games happening at Kal Tire Place in Vernon. There has been no time for anything but hockey for the players and coaches in the bubble with the ‘Backs suiting up for eight games in the first 15 days of April alone.
The team’s general manager Brooks Christensen said COVID-19 protocols have left the players and coaches travelling only between their billet homes, the Shaw Centre for practices and the arena in Vernon for games. Even he isn’t able to interact with the team in person.
Christensen said the team is focused and excited to be back playing games. Although the schedule is demanding, he said the team’s coaches did a great job of preparing players in the months leading up to the return to play.
Competition has been fierce among the three teams in the Vernon bubble. Christensen said the rivalry that already existed between the three clubs has only intensified. As of April 15 the Silverbacks had a record of four wins and four losses with four of those games decided in overtime.
Although fans are not able to cheer the Silverbacks on from the stands, the viewers who can help launch players’ careers to the next level are still keeping a close eye on the BCHL. Christensen said NCAA scouts have been watching on the Hockey TV web broadcast and a few NHL scouts are also looking on each night.
The competition in the bubble will proceed with the same intensity and packed schedule until May 8.