The BCHL leaving Hockey Canada is big news. Everyone in the hockey business knew it was coming, and most people were completely prepared for it.
I am not sure the BCHL was as prepared as they would like to think though. There are a lot of good hockey people involved in BCHL teams, and the BCHL does have some strong points of contention with Hockey Canada.
But, thoose points of contention, and the way the BCHL has gone about trying to say that they are a rival to the USHL is a problem that is not of Hockey Canada’s making. That is a problem with nothing other than the way the BCHL looks at itself. The way the BCHL looks at itself frankly is a distorted mirror.
With last week’s USHL draft, came notice to the BCHL and other Canadian Tier II leagues. That notice is that the USHL uses the BCHL and other Canadian Tier II or Junior A leagues as a development pool. They are seen as below the USHL level and the USHL will take the best players being developed in those leagues.
Thirteen BCHL players were taken in the USHL draft last week. A draft that had a decidedly Canadian flavor this year as players from the AJHL and SJHL were also taken.
What happens if the BCHL players end up playing in the USHL? No development fee or transfer fee has to be paid to the BCHL team that the player leaves.
The USA Hockey/Hockey Canada transfer agreement controls those fee’s. Teams that have players from other Hockey Canada leagues going to the USHL or NAHL are compensated for the player loss financially. This is true for US players who go up to Canada.
That fee last season was $4000 per player. This year, the BCHL will get $0 per player.
On top of the USHL draft, Hockey Canada has made the rules very clear for all American and Canadian players who are looking at the BCHL as an option.
Key points to this document are that if a player goes to the BCHL and gets cut after September 30th, the player cannot go to any Hockey Canada sanctioned program. They are done for the season unless they go to the USA.
The BCHL wont be affiliating players in Hockey Canada programs either. Because if a AAA player goes up to the BCHL after September 30th, they too will not be able to return to a Hockey Canada program.
The other leagues in Canada will be free to raid BCHL rosters after June 1, and they wont have to provide compensation to the BCHL either.
Also keep in mind that all of this is taking place while the NAHL and NCDC are expanding and creating one hundred and fifty new Tier II roster spots. Meaning more opportunities in the United States for NCAA programs to scout players without having to travel to Canada.
Hypothetical situations to consider;
Player A goes to the BCHL makes a team and is having a good season. Player A fractures his wrist in October, has surgery and can come back in December. December comes and Player A has been replaced in the lineup and no longer is getting his top line minutes, or is released. Player A can not go to any other league in Canada. His only option is to go to the US. Player A is not wanted in the USHL, NAHL or NCDC. Player A’s only option is to then pay to play or not play.
Player B goes to the BCHL and makes the team but gets released in October. Player B can not go to any other league in Canada. His only option is to go to the US. Player B is not wanted in the USHL, NAHL or NCDC. Player B’s only option is to then pay to play or not play.
These are two very simple yet very real potential problems.
Looking at these simple yet real problems it is easy to see that this move by the BCHL is not about the players, it is about the BCHL alone.
Lets also be clear on another item. The BCHL vote to leave Hockey Canada was not unanimous. Not every team is in favor of this move. Some teams are very much against it.
What happens when Hockey Canada starts another league in British Columbia? It will happen sooner rather than later. Best guess is twelve to twenty four months.
What happens when referee’s who work both the BCHL and WHL are told they can not work the WHL games if they work in the BCHL? Referee quality will take a leap off of a cliff.
What happens when a top flight Canadian player is left off of National Team rosters because he played in an unsanctioned league? When his NHL draft stock takes a nose dive because another player who was in a sanctioned program got the National Team opportunity and had a breakout tournament?
Players and parents better become very educated on these matters. Opportunity always comes with a cost. How much are you willing to pay? And will it cost you more later?
If you need help answering those questions, I look forward to hearing from you.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser