It’s official, the Powell River Kings are no longer a part of Hockey Canada. This as the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) officially leaves the governing body to become an independent league as of June 1.
The change does add some issues for players interested in playing in the Canadian Hockey League, which are under the Hockey Canada umbrella, but it increases their ability as a feeder league for hockey south of the border.
The BCHL is maximizing the opportunity to capitalize as Canada’s main feeder league to American college’s NCAA teams – something that has already been a selling point for the league for years. Last season, 23 per cent of Division I NCAA players played at least ten games in the BCHL. 174 college-committed players are currently in the league – which is a record high.
The league’s independence helps further that cause as it allows more opportunity to draw talent from across the country without worrying as much about the transfer agreements that bound Hockey Canada.
The biggest changes will allow 16 and 17-year-olds from out of province and two players per team from outside of North America onto BCHL rosters. This will seemingly give more of a stage to Canadians and international players interested in playing in the NCAA.
League Commissioner Steven Cocker says while new players are entering the fold from outside, their priority will remain on the development of young players from BC.
“During this process, it has always been extremely important to us to maintain our connection with young athletes in British Columbia and to continue prioritizing their development,” says Cocker.
The BCHL’s current affiliate structure will be flipped on its head, as teams are now no longer allowed to affiliate with Hockey Canada leagues. The league is allowing eight affiliate registrations per team from any independent minor, youth, or high school hockey leagues across North America.
Cocker says, “While it is unfortunate that policies exist that restrict Canadian athletes from affiliating with leagues that benefit them in their development, we are confident that expanded rosters mimicking that of the NCAA, in addition to the independent affiliate pool, will give our teams sufficient access to players.”
While a lot of things are changing, some remain the same. A minimum of four rookies are required on the roster and a maximum of six “overaged” 20-year-old players are allowed.
Training camps across the league will open for their first season of independence on September 1.