The B.C. Hockey League is leaving Hockey Canada.
The Junior A league announced Monday that its board of governors has voted to end its agreement with Hockey Canada as of June, 1 2023. The BCHL will become an independent league, allowing for closer ties to the U.S. College system.
“The BCHL sends more players to NCAA Division I teams than all other junior hockey leagues in Canada combined,” said BCHL chairman Graham Fraser.
“During the past season there were 411 BCHL alumni on NCAA rosters, making up nearly a quarter of all Division I college hockey. That is exciting, but we aspire to do more for players and to provide a higher level of hockey for our fans. Under the current system, that’s just not possible.”
“Our owners and governors are proud of how far we have come in recent years and have a strong desire to continue to grow and make decisions that are in the best interests of young players and families,” added Fraser.
“Today, we are entering a new era that will eliminate barriers and change the landscape of junior hockey in Canada.”
The BCHL said restrictions around player eligibility are limiting the choice of young hockey players in Canada.
For example, if a U18 player signs with a Major Junior team in the Canadian Hockey League, they are disqualified from U.S. colleges because the NCAA considers it a professional league.
If that player decides to keep their NCAA eligibility and play Junior A instead, they are only allowed to play in their province of residence. That leads many players to be forced to uproot their families to move at significant cost, or play in a U.S. league.
“We believe U18 players should have two development paths in Canada – Major Junior leading to the National Hockey League (NHL) being one and college-tracking junior leading to a US college and then the NHL being the other. Both are important. Both should be supported,” said BCHL CEO Chris Hebb.
The BCHL says the change will allow for more scholarships for BCHL players, a larger player pool and higher standards.
The BCHL said they made the decision to leave after nearly five years of “good faith efforts to find a solution within Hockey Canada’s system.”
The league will now need to secure its own insurance, officials and more, something the BCHL says they have established a “foundation in.”
“Players and families currently in the BCHL can rest assured that we remain committed to player development and the standards of excellence in their day-to-day hockey experiences will not change as a result of our decision,” said Steven Cocker, commissioner of the BCHL.
“In fact, they will have access to even more opportunities for their future success. We are excited to embark on this new chapter and continue building a better league for everyone.”