The good news for North Shore high school football fans is the popular Buchanan Bowl is back this year following a one-year COVID hiatus.
The bad news is those fans won’t get to see the game live in person. There will, however, be a livestream available for fans to watch online.
The annual grudge match between the Handsworth Royals and Carson Graham Eagles, now in its 34th edition, will be played this Friday (Sept. 9) during school hours, but staff and students from the two schools are being told not to attend the game in person following a decision made by officials from the North Vancouver School District
Students will be in class right next door to the field at Carson Graham Secondary on Friday – the senior teams play at 10 a.m. followed by the juniors at 12:30 p.m. – but they are being asked not to come out of the school to watch the game live, and no students are being brought over from Handsworth. Parents, friends and family members are being asked not to attend as well, with the school district concerned about the potential spread of COVID-19.
It was tough news for the Carson Graham players when they found out about the restrictions on fans, said head coach Brian Brady. They were expecting the game to be a big welcome back event for the schools and students.
“The kids took it pretty hard when we told them,” said Brady. “This is the event that we were looking forward to, that we’d been preparing for all last season. This was kind of the game that we talked about through the spring, we knew this was going to be one of our first games.”
The move to discourage spectators came after the provincial health officer gave the green light for high school sports to resume with no restrictions on the types of activities, competitions or training a school can do, although an Aug. 26 memo from B.C. School Sports stated that “we are still subject to the provincewide order on gatherings and events that limits spectators to 50 per cent of the normal seated capacity. Otherwise, school sport may proceed as normal, with training and competition.”
The Eagles already played one game this season, on the road at Vancouver College, with the stands full of students and fans, a concession running, an announcer and broadcaster on site and many other trappings of a normal high school football game.
Carson Graham won’t be able to replicate that atmosphere for the Buchanan Bowl, but the school district did bring in SportsCanada TV to livestream the games on YouTube. Brady reckoned that some students at Carson Graham will be in the strange position of watching the game on the livestream in the school while the players are playing just outside.
“As far as I know, they're going to be watching it in class,” he said. There may even be a teacher or two put in the awkward position of trying to teach a class while the game rages on right outside the window.
“I’m glad to be on the field and not teaching that block,” Brady said with a chuckle.
The decision to livestream the game and not have student spectators on site “was made through the lens of COVID-19 and wanting to limit students from different schools mixing in close proximity,” school district communications manager Lisa Dalla Vecchia stated in an email to the North Shore News.
The school district is “taking a thoughtful and measured approach to how we accommodate guests and visitors to school-sanctioned events and gatherings,” said Dalla Vecchia. “We are encouraging individuals interested in watching the games to livestream the games. For those who may show up at the games on Friday, they will be welcome on the bleachers on the south side of the field. Spectators should expect spacing will be limited and visitor guidelines will be in place. … We acknowledge the decision to proceed with the Buchanan Bowl this year with these modifications has created disappointment for some, but we hope the community understands the school district’s commitment to making decisions that prioritize the health, safety and well-being of our students, staff and wider community."
Though there likely won’t be a big crowd of fans there to cheer on the players, the fact they actually get to play the game this year is already a big step up from last year’s lost season, said Brady.
“We can take a negative and turn it into a positive – it’s substantially more than what we had at this time last year,” he said. “We’re pretty excited just to be playing football. But all the other stuff is nice too.”