The optimism is there, the Cariboo Winter Hockey Classic will take place.

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 on Saturday January 22 and Sunday January 23 at Vanderhoof and Fort St. James.

“These teams haven’t played each other in a while because of travel,” said Caleb Wilson, Cariboo Hockey’s director of media relations.

“A lot of games have been postponed and moved so it will be interesting to see these returning teams in action.”

With COVID-19 tough hockey games across the country, Wilson admitted things could change at any time.

Despite the uncertainty, the light remains green.

“For now, we’re moving forward until (the provincial health worker) Dr. Bonnie Henry and the rest of the medical team making the decisions tell us otherwise,” Wilson said.

“It’s inevitable that the unpredictability of the whole situation will make it difficult, but we always have to plan for it as if anything is possible until we say otherwise.”

For some players, it will be their first time playing on an outdoor rink.

In early 2020, more than 100 people took to Nak’azdli Whut’en’s Ernie Sam Memorial outdoor arena to watch the Vancouver Northwest Hawks shut out the Cariboo Cougars 2-0.

That same year, the Northern Capitals of the BC Women’s Midget AAA League became the first team to host a BC winter classic when they played a three-game series against the Greater Vancouver Comets in the Vanderhoof Arena, Fort Forum and the Ernie Sam Memorial Arena.

“The weather is unpredictable, COVID is unpredictable but we look forward to it, and this is something that a lot of kids also talk to younger kids about – they’re like I want the opportunity to play in this classic d ‘winter,’ Wilson said.

“It’s a unique opportunity and experience. “

This year’s Winter Classic kicks off Saturday afternoon, Jan. 22, as the Northern Capitals face the Fraser Valley Rush in Vanderhoof. The Cariboo Cougars will host the Fraser Vallery Thunderbirds on Saturday night at the Ernie Sam Memorial Arena.

Sunday’s games will see the Northern Capitals and Fraser Valley Rush continue their weekend doubles program at the Ernie Sam Memorial Arena at Fort Forum in Fort St. James, home to the U18-AAA men’s teams.

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