From the Press Box: Time to Plan for the Smoke

by Jamie Shinkewski

It’s time to take a serious look at scheduling Kamloops Broncos games around the wildfire season.

The Broncos’ Aug. 18 home game was far from the only Kamloops event impacted by wildfire smoke over the weekend. The TRU WolfPack men’s team saw their exhibition game in Kelowna forced inside to become a seven-aside fun scrimmage with UBC Okanagan and North Shore’s Overlanders Day was cancelled without certainty if the event will proceed in 2018.

Much like the Broncos’ home games in August last season, 2017 Overlanders Day was threatened by heavy wildfire smoke in the leading days but it cleared in time to proceed as scheduled. This year, not so lucky.

One idea floated by North Shore BIA president Jeremy Heighton; move the event month earlier for next year. A solution that seems to be logical for football games in Kamloops, don’t schedule it for the height of wildfire season.

For BCFC teams functioning on a limited budget it’s a difficult proposition to lose a regular season game. It’s not fair to the Broncos to cancel 20 per cent of their home games and it’s not fair to the Rebels to pay for a trip to Kamloops for nothing.

Nobody is happy with this situation, read what the coaches had to say and they both made valid points. What happened on Saturday sucks for everyone involved, and so does a game worth double the points. 

So, it’s time to draft a solution for the future.

The league needs to develop a policy on how to deal with the threats of the wildfire season to games, and these conversations have begun and such a policy is likely to be created in the offseason.

BCFC president Tyler McLaren suggested in Sunday's press release to extend the schedule by one week to add another bye that would be a safety net in case of future cancellations, and why not start the season in July? Most years it gives teams an extra week of rest to heal some bumps and bruises and should only make for better football.

The BCFC could also follow a model used by another junior sports teams. The KIJHL’s Revelstoke Grizzlies typically feature a road-heavy opening to the hockey season because they want to host home games when the ski season is in full swing, so they purposely start with a more difficult travel schedule throughout the tourism town’s shoulder season in October and November.

A similar concept could be adapted for the Broncos to deal with the wildfire season.

If the past few years are any indication, Kamloops is bogged down with terrible air quality through August. Don’t schedule games in Kamloops in August.

With an extra bye week, Kamloops could open the season at home, play a tough August schedule of road games and return home when what seems to be the worst time for local air quality has passed.

Losing a tenth of the season sucks. It’s not fair to anyone in the league to have one four-pointer when the rest are worth two, but the league was right in putting player safety above playing a game.

Secondly, it's absurd the league doesn't have a standard for how poor the air quality needs to be to cancel a game. Pick a scale, pick a number and if it's too poor, don't play. Canada West developed a policy this week. If it's a 7 or higher on the AQHI index, the TRU WolfPack men's soccer games won't play. 

The BCFC doesn't have such a policy and it needs one. The smoke problem isn't finished this summer and by anyone's best guess it'll be back next year.

Now it’s time to develop the right plans and policies to make sure a cancelled game can be dealt with accordingly.