June 8, 2023 update
With new roster rules, has the BCHL abandoned its commitment to BC-born and raised players?
No. In fact, the league has strengthened its commitment to BC-born and raised players. The BCHL has maintained its previous minimum of five British Columbians per team. This is a similar minimum to other Canadian junior leagues. The BCHL will now only consider BC players as those who were born in the province, and those who developed in the local system. Previously, under BC Hockey and Hockey Canada regulations, a player’s family could move to BC and would be considered a homegrown player.
Will BCHL rosters be full of European players now that they are permitted to join the league?
Each team will be allowed a maximum of two non-North American players.
Will the BCHL have a shortage of officials?
No. The BC Hockey League will head into next season with a full staff of officials. Many have already expressed their desire to work for the BCHL and, under the guidance of Vice President of Hockey Operations Brad Lazarowich, we will build an officiating staff large enough to work all league games next year. Our intention has always been to work with BC Hockey to ensure there is no shortage of officials, and to provide as much opportunity for officials as possible, regardless of the league they are working with on any given game night.
Will BCHL officials be allowed to work games outside of the league?
Under BC Hockey and Hockey Canada regulations, any officials that work BCHL games after Sep. 30 will not be permitted to work in Hockey Canada-sanctioned leagues. We hope this regulation changes as we anticipate it will have a negative effect on all levels of hockey, which is something we would like to avoid.
Will the BCHL’s officiating quality decrease?
No. The BCHL has a plan to make sure the league’s officiating program only gets better. The BCHL will continue to provide top-tier development for young officials in the province and we will announce more initiatives to support officials in the near future, including the fact that Jay Sharrers and Shane Heyer (current NHL officiating managers and BCHL officiating alumni) will join the league’s officiating development program.
What is the cutoff date when players would face sanctions from Hockey Canada for participating in an independent league?
If players choose to play in the BCHL, will they be banned from participating in Hockey Canada-sanctioned play in the future?
Under the current Hockey Canada regulations, if a player participates in an independent league like the BCHL, they are not permitted to join a Hockey Canada-sanctioned league during that same season, after Sept. 30.
That being said, there is a reinstatement process that has proven to be successful in the past. In addition, the player would be eligible to return to Hockey Canada-sanctioned play the following season. They would also have several options in the United States should they wish to play there.
Will players that participate in a BCHL spring/summer camp face obstacles from Hockey Canada?
No. Only players that play in league games after Sep. 30 will face obstacles should they wish to return to a Hockey Canada-sanctioned league during the same season. This is a Hockey Canada and BC Hockey policy.
Will players be cut from teams late in the season and be left with nowhere to play?
The BCHL has implemented policies that reward teams for keeping players on their rosters. Expanding rosters to 25 players (plus room for a third goaltender) will reduce the likelihood that a player will be cut late in the year. These policies have been implemented because of Hockey Canada’s regulation of not allowing BCHL players to play in their system, which severely curtails a player’s options.
Is it true that BCHL officials and team staff can no longer coach their children in their minor hockey association?
Yes, BC Hockey has indicated they will prevent that from happening. Many of our teams are deeply ingrained with their local minor hockey associations. As a result, we think that the position that they are taking is going to have detrimental effects on minor hockey in this province.
Can minor hockey teams still have BCHL athletes attend practices and can those Minor Hockey players take part in pregame and intermission programming?
Unfortunately, it appears BC Hockey will prevent this from happening. The BCHL believes the relationship with our communities and minor hockey associations is imperative to the development of those young B.C. athletes. The BCHL and its 18 teams want more involvement at the grassroots level, not less.
Our insurance program covers all practices, intermission activities and promotional events for incoming participants.
Is this change a way for the league and teams to make more money?
This change has solely been about improving the player experience and increasing the standards. It has never been about the money. In fact, two years ago, the BCHL Board of Governors voted in favour of eliminating all player fees by 2025, because we think making the league better will generate revenue on its own, instead of relying on player fees to do that.
The BCHL uses the term “independent,” but BC Hockey and Hockey Canada are using “rogue” and “non-sanctioned.” What are the differences?
The term rogue and the non-sanctioned policies were created to deter and protect athletes from joining start-up leagues that may not have the professionalism and player safety measures that are rightly expected within Hockey Canada. The BCHL is one of the safest leagues in the country when it comes to our regulations, playing rules, and investments made in our Department of Player Safety. We will continue to have that as our priority.
After 61 years of operation, the BCHL is one of the safest leagues in the country. The BCHL has a proven track record and strong leadership at the league and club levels. We have contributed to the development of players with integrity and professionalism for decades and will continue to do so going forward.
Is the BCHL’s new insurance comparable to what it had with Hockey Canada?
Yes. We have partnered with one of the leading insurance brokerages in the country, Westland Insurance, to deliver a program that is relative to our previous coverages with Hockey Canada. Our program covers all operations of training, competition, and game night events for our athletes, team staff, volunteers, officials, and more. Our program includes Commercial General Liability for all participants, Directors and Officers, Abuse, Major Medical and Dental, AD&D, and Cyber coverages.
Where will the BCHL get its affiliate players from?
Affiliates may come from any independent minor/youth/high school league across North America. As per existing Hockey Canada and BC Hockey policies, the closest leagues to the BCHL (CSSHL, BCEHL, and Junior B) can no longer affiliate with the BCHL as an independent league. While we were aware of this regulation, we want to work together in the future in the best interests of the athletes.
How does a potential new Junior A league made up of current Junior B teams affect the BCHL?
It does not affect the BCHL at all. In fact, it only proves the points that the league made in its White Paper back in September regarding the need for a higher tier of college-tracking junior hockey that provides a better player experience while not charging athletes.
Is the BCHL still Junior A?
The BCHL is simply the British Columbia Hockey League. We don’t need to classify ourselves otherwise. Our goal is to provide a world-class experience to athletes pursuing education and hockey through college.
Is the BCHL worried about losing players because of becoming an independent league?
Some players decide to go in a different direction every year, no matter what the situation, but we, and our teams are confident that the standard of play and the 61-year reputation of the league will mean that players will want to return and we will attract players from all over the world.
What are the BCHL’s biggest concerns about how some members of the hockey community have reacted to the league’s departure from Hockey Canada?
We were aware of the regulations in place prior to becoming an independent league, but we continue to believe that many existing regulations do not align with what matters to young Canadian student-athletes and their families. Imposing rules or taking actions that have exclusionary effects are not in anyone’s best interests. No singular organization owns the game of hockey. The BCHL has been a contributing member of the hockey ecosystem in Canada for 61 years and that will only continue.
May 1, 2023
Why did the BCHL not renew its agreement with Hockey Canada?
- By taking this step as a league, the BCHL will have more autonomy and control over its own direction. This will allow the league to make decisions that are in the best interests of players, their families and its 18 teams.
- For a comprehensive overview of the challenges, please see the document produced by the BC Hockey League’s Executive Committee and League Office outlining various ways to improve junior hockey in our country, entitled: Modernizing Junior Hockey in Canada.
- It was sent to Hockey Canada, BC Hockey and the Governance Review Committee overseeing the examination of Hockey Canada’s structure and leadership.
What restrictions do U18 players face under the system?
We are a development league. And, under the current system, U18 players in Canada making huge decisions about their futures are restricted in their options.
- If a player decides to keep their eligibility and play Junior A, they are restricted to playing only in their defined branch (region) under Hockey Canada (note: this isn’t a restriction for players in the CHL and the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) which includes divisions U15-U18).
- If a U18 player does not have a competitive Junior A option in their own branch, they are often forced to leave Canada to play in the USHL or NAHL, where there are no similar restrictions, to find better competition while maintaining NCAA eligibility.
- What we are left with is a system that encourages Canadian U18 players with scholarship aspirations to pursue their junior hockey development in the USA.
“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.
How does this benefit the players?
- This change will allow our league to operate without outdated restrictions. For players, this means they will have the opportunity to stay within Canada if they choose, and still find high level competition to prepare themselves for NCAA Division I or U Sports hockey. With standards being raised across the league, it will also benefit the player experience for all current and future players.
How does this benefit the fans?
- The BCHL’s mission is to establish a tier of junior hockey that to date has not been seen in Canada, to raise its standards, to provide more opportunities for players, and to increase the excitement level for fans.
- In order to continue to build a world class college tracking system for players seeking NCAA college scholarships, we need to be bold and modernize junior hockey in Canada.
Why exactly could you not accomplish this plan within the system?
- The regulations within Hockey Canada’s system do not allow us to grow the league the way we believe is in the best interest of college tracking players. We were asked to speak on this topic by the recent Hockey Canada governance review and are optimistic that the improvements being made will eventually create opportunities for dialogue. For more information about the Hockey Canada Governance Review by Honourable Thomas Cromwell click here.
Is the BCHL still part of BC Hockey?
- With our decision to become an independent league outside of Hockey Canada’s system, the BCHL is no longer officially a member of BC Hockey. We have been invited to be part of a junior hockey task group and look forward to continued discussions about the future of Junior A hockey in Canada.
Are you open to continuing discussions and coming back to BC Hockey or Hockey Canada?
- We have always been open to a meaningful discussion that provides Canadian athletes with more opportunities. We will always do what’s best for athletes seeking college-tracking junior options.
Why make this change now?
- Becoming independent was a decision made following nearly five years of good faith efforts to find a solution within Hockey Canada’s system. BCHL owners, governors, executives, and committees thoroughly explored all options but were unable to establish meaningful discourse with the governing leadership of Hockey Canada over that period.
Why announce this now while the playoffs are underway?
- A change of this significance requires an extensive amount of preparation and planning for all teams and stakeholders. This will be implemented on June 1, 2023 and we had a lot of work to do and needed as much time as possible.
Are you still considered Junior A?
- We are simply the British Columbia Hockey League whose primary goal is to develop young athletes for the NCAA and U Sports.
Will BCHL players still have the same opportunities?
- They will have all of the same opportunities the BCHL has provided in the past. In fact, they will have access to even more opportunities for their future success. We will also continue to lobby for our athletes to have opportunities at the national level.
Will the BCHL recruit players from outside BC?
- Yes, the BCHL will continue to allow all players the choice of where they play, similar to the recruiting process in the NCAA.
- In addition, we will also be able to recruit Canadian U18 players from outside of their branch, as well as from the USA and outside of North America.
Is the BCHL still committed to developing BC-born players?
- Currently 97 percent of BC-born players who played NCAA Division I hockey last year played in the BCHL and we remain committed to BC player development and roster minimums will not change.
What kinds of special events will the new BCHL host?
- The BCHL will continue to enhance its series of events, including the potential of a post-playoff tournament that celebrates the skill level of its players. Currently the league hosts a Showcase event, Top Prospects game, Outdoor All-Star Event and a Road Show to help increase the exposure of its athletes.
What higher standards will the BCHL strive for as an Independent League?
- The BCHL will continue to use its new scorecard system with the goal to make improvements that will ultimately benefit all teams and the league as a whole. The scorecard was implemented in 2021 and covers all areas of team operations, including hockey operations, business standards and facility infrastructure.
Is the BCHL becoming a pay-to-play league now?
- As part of the four-year plan, the BCHL has already voted to gradually eliminate player fees across the league by 2025.
Does the BCHL still have insurance for players?
- Yes. The BCHL’s insurance broker is Westland Insurance. Through the process, a comprehensive insurance plan for all players, teams, and staff was created under the guidance of Mark Woodall who has worked with many amateur and professional sports clients including the Canadian Football League.
How will this affect on-ice officials?
- The BCHL has committed to increase compensation for its officials and our Director of Player Safety and Officiating, Brad Lazarowich, is working closely with referees and linespeople to recognize their contributions to our league, while not interfering with their ability to officiate other levels of hockey.
What due diligence and governance is now in place to support players and the league?
- We are going to implement measures to include a robust concussion management program, criminal record and background checks for all personnel, a comprehensive registration platform and database, education to promote healthy relationships, safe sport, abuse and maltreatment prevention training, emergency medical certification, mental health resources, addiction education, media training, language and inclusivity training, player safety initiatives, coach certification, and officials certification. With such comprehensive measures in place, the BCHL is committed to providing a safe, positive, and inclusive environment for all involved in our league.
How will this affect transactions between leagues?
- The BCHL will explore new transfer agreements with similar leagues to allow transactions to take place.