Vancouver, BC- The UBC Thunderbirds men’s hockey team was supposed to play a U SPORTS quarterfinal on March 13, but that game never happened and they have not played since then. Finally, after nine months away from games, the T-Birds, alongside Vancouver schools Trinity Western and Simon Fraser will play a tournament from Nov. 12 to Dec. 2.
The Captains Cup, as it is being called, will be hosted at George Preston Arena in Langley, home to the PJHL’s Langley Trappers, rather than at TWU’s main arena at the Langley Events Centre. Fans will not be permitted but will be able to watch all the games for free on the Spartans YouTube channel.
It is not a new tournament, but the format in which it will be played is. The teams usually play each other at the beginning of the year in preparation for the Canada West and BCIHL season, but with those cancelled, the tournament has been expanded to a double round-robin and final.
The Spartans were supposed to make their U SPORTS debut in 2020-21, becoming the second Vancouver team alongside UBC. While this will not offer the same intensity or competition as a Canada West season would, it will be a test for TWU to see how they stack up against one of the stronger programs in the conference.
For UBC, not having the opportunity to chase the U CUP this year is heartbreaking. Through the Canada West Playoffs and to the tournament last year, the team caught the eye of local hockey fans and media alike, as they found tremendous playoff success. While winning another Captains Cup will likely be some solace, it will not be as great as it could have been if they had hoisted the U CUP in PEI.
The SFU hockey team is not like UBC or TWU, rather they usually play in the BCIHL smaller schools that are not affiliated with Canada West or U SPORTS. Their roster has much less top-end talent than the T-Birds or Spartans, but in a shortened tournament after months off hockey, they could do some damage early. SFU finished in second place in 2019-20’s BCIHL standings, right behind the TWU Spartans who have left the league. The SFU team will likely be the only team of the three wearing full face shields, which are mandated in the BCIHL but not U SPORTS.
“We are really excited to get the competitive juices flowing once again,” said UBC coach Sven Butenschon to Spartan Athletics. “The Captains Cup has meant a lot to us before COVID and will mean that much more this year with Canada West pushing pause on league play.”
The Captains Cup will be the first competitive university hockey in Canada since the cancellation of the 2019-20 U CUP championships in March. While it is the first in hockey, many schools have returned to soccer, golf and athletics competitions in recent weeks.
49 Sports will provide full, daily coverage of the 2020 Captains Cup.