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KIJHL remains committed to Hockey Canada after Vancouver Island league splits

Annoncement from Vancouver Island comes one year after BCHL leaves national governing body
Castlegar Rebels gather around coach Nick Headrick during a Feb. 16 game against the Nelson Leafs.

Two B.C. junior hockey leagues say they remain committed to the Hockey Canada umbrella after a Vancouver Island junior league announced it was going independent as a feeder program for higher non-sanctioned leagues.

The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League announced Monday (April 25) that it will operate independently of Hockey Canada and the BC Hockey Conference starting in the 2024-2025 season.

However, representatives from the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League and the Pacific Junior Hockey League say both leagues remain committed to Hockey Canada and BC Hockey.

“The BCHC and its member leagues are fully committed to operating under the Hockey Canada and BC Hockey umbrella,” said Jeff Dubois, KIJHL commissioner. “Over the past year, we have been making the necessary efforts and investments to elevate to the Junior A level, with the ultimate goal of providing our players with a pathway to compete in the Centennial Cup, Canada’s national Junior A championship.”

In 2022, the KIJHL and PJHL formed the BCHC to advance their level of junior hockey in the province and provide enhanced opportunities for players.

BCHC initiatives over the past two seasons have included the creation of a Department of Player Safety and the establishment of a Top Prospects Game, which has directly led to three recent participants signing in the Western Hockey League.

“The BCHC, the PJHL and the KIJHL are well-established and provide exceptional value to our participants, fans and sponsors,” said Trevor Alto, PJHL commissioner. “We look forward to this reputation being further solidified as the impact of today’s announcement is felt throughout the sanctioned Junior A landscape in our province.”

The VIJHL’s decision to leave the Hockey Canada umbrella was made after a board vote by the 11 member teams, which was announced on April 29.

According to a statement, the decision was made to enhance development opportunities for players and give the league more autonomy over its future.

Organizationally, Hockey Canada-sanctioned junior hockey has been in flux ever since the British Columbia Hockey League — formerly the province’s top-tier Junior A league — announced it was going independent last year.

Following the BCHL’s announcement, Hockey Canada approved the move of B.C.’s three former Junior B leagues — the KIJHL, PJHL and VIJHL — up into Junior A.

“We are very pleased with the progression of the KIJHL and PJHL as they move forward toward a strengthened Junior A in our province,” said Cameron Hope, BC Hockey CEO. “These leagues have shown a clear, ongoing commitment to prioritizing the safety, development and playing experience of B.C. and Yukon players. We are disappointed with the decision of the VIJHL team owners to operate outside the safe and organized community sport model of sanctioned hockey, but we wish them well.”

The BCHC is continuing efforts to develop an application and assessment process for KIJHL and PJHL teams to take the next step to full-fledged Junior A hockey, while engaging with Blackfin Sports Group, which is headed up by former Canucks Sports & Entertainment executives.

The BCHC is expected to announce its next steps in early 2025, as the May 1 application deadline is fast approaching.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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