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An Advisers Life – The BCHL Proposal To Hockey Canada – Why It Has No Chance

The BCHL is a very good league. There are a lot of good people working in the league, and a lot of good players. The competition is very high level, and many teams do everything the right way for players.

The BCHL left the CJHL in 2021, based upon their belief that the BCHL should be labeled at a higher level than the other Tier II leagues in Canada’s CJHL umbrella.

We wrote about this at length and had many discussions with many of those people involved on both sides of the discussion.

What we did not have then, that we do have now, was the exact reasoning behind their position. The BCHL has made their reasoning public now, and they have published the basis for their position. You can read the thirty-five-page document below:

BCHL Proposal To Hockey Canada

This document is detailed, and clearly written with the earnestness the BCHL claims to have for players. That earnestness though is only from the BCHL point of view however and leaves out a lot of very important information.

While I, and many others would agree that the Hockey Canada recruiting policies are outdated, and need to be changed to fit today’s world, the BCHL proposal goes way too far in serving their needs and not the needs of the players involved.

It is important to note that the BCHL is NOT a completely “free to play” league. They have stated this publicly and intend to phase out pay to play practices by 2025. Some teams are completely free to play and are operated at a USHL level. One example would be Wenatchee lead by USHL Coaching veteran Bliss Littler.

The BCHL would like, as proposed in this document, to eliminate recruiting geographical restrictions, and create a “tier system” to distinguish pay to play from free to play. And while both of these proposals on their face would simply mimic what is in place in the United States, these proposals are completely unreasonable, and nonsensical within the development system of Canada.

The BCHL proposal does address the changes that need to be made within the Canadian Development Model that was put in place in 2006, but it only address’s those changes as to the benefit of the BCHL and not the other Junior A or Tier II leagues across Canada.

The problem at the heart of the BCHL’s idea’s is simply that Canada has far too many Junior A or Tier II teams to allow these ideas to be implemented fairly.

The “dual track” idea of NCAA development vs. Major Junior development simply does not work. The statement that Canadian University hockey not being as strong as NCAA, while true, is not accepting the responsibility for that truth. If you want Canadian University hockey to become stronger then you simply must develop players for that path and not for the NCAA.

Many people have asked over the years; “why are we paying scholarship money to foreign born players anyway?” Canadian players only make up 30% of NCAA players, so why not ask what happens to those who don’t make the NCAA path? Or, how good would Canadian University hockey be if that 30% were playing in Canada?

While the BCHL claims that they are developing 200 plus NCAA commitments each year, that point is not valid. When the bulk of those commitments come from players who already had their commitment before joining the BCHL, and those same players are by majority American born, there is little weight to the idea that the BCHL is the best route for Canadian players to get to the NCAA.

The BCHL admits in this document that their league leans toward 18- to 20-year-old players who are out of province or American. While admitting this truth is great and making the statement that they would like to get younger and have more 16- and 17-year-old players, the BCHL could do this on their own without asking Hockey Canada to change the rules.

The BCHL could simply sign more 16- and 17-year-old players from within their province and develop those players. Stop recruiting American players, reduce the number of import players allowed, and you accomplish your goals without trying to force everyone else in the country to bend to your desires. Simple solution, problem solved.

My solution though would not allow the BCHL to go into other Provinces like Ontario, and pluck the very best young players and have them leave for the BCHL instead of competing in the OJHL, CCHL, NOJHL, or SIJHL. My solution does not serve the self-serving interests of the BCHL.

Once again though, we have to see that these proposals all come back to one thing. There are simply too many Junior A or Tier II programs in Canada for any of the BCHL’s proposals to work.

The BCHL proposal to mimic the USA Hockey “Tier System” is simply not reasonable.

First, the USA Hockey tier system is a financial model, and not a model that is based on level of play, skill or competition. The USHL being the only Tier I league in the United States currently, is the only truly free to play league in the country.

That said, because of their import player rules, and age restrictions regarding numbers of 20-year-old players, there are plenty of players in the NCDC and NAHL that could easily play in the USHL and are better than players on USHL rosters. Those internal USHL rules make this happen.

The BCHL proposal does not mimic the USHL rules. Essentially the BCHL wants to have its cake and eat it while the rest of the Junior A leagues pay the bill.

The BCHL proposal would, if enacted, place a perceived higher value on their teams. It would falsely make it appear that the BCHL is on the level of the USHL and it definitely is not on a USHL level competitively or financially.

The BCHL proposal would irrevocably damage every other Junior A or Tier II program in Canada. It would devalue those other franchises while artificially inflating the values of BCHL franchises.

One positive and very strong point the BCHL proposal makes is that the restrictive policies concerning the Major Junior leagues, vs. the Junior A or Tier II leagues, are completely unfair. Specifically concerning NHL compensation for drafted players.

A complete inequity exists in the WHL not allowing all Junior A teams to present packages to CSSHL teams. While CSSHL players are very aware of the options at Junior A, those options should be equally presented.

As a whole though, the BCHL proposal and opinions are essentially self-serving and offer no benefit to the other Junior A/Tier II leagues in Canada.

The proposal makes assumptions, not based on existing fact, but based on “goals” within the BCHL. The proposal does not consider or offer mitigation avenues for other Junior A leagues if the proposal was adopted in whole or in part.

Hockey Canada is clearly under pressure because they have made seriously inappropriate decisions without the knowledge or consent of its members.

But in 2006 when the Canadian Development Model was put together, the BCHL and every other league had an opportunity to be heard. These ideas were not presented at that time. Yes, sixteen years later changes need to be made to adapt to the changing economic and development climates.

Those changes though, cannot be made to the sole benefit of the BCHL, and the detriment of every other Junior A league in Canada. The “Tier System” in the United States is imperfect, but functional because the United States does not have 120 Tier II or Junior A teams like Canada.

The United States only has one Tier I league in the USHL, where the equivalent would be three Major Junior Leagues in Canada. The foundation in which the BCHL extends this proposal of being a “Tier I” level program is built upon quicksand. Tier I in Canada would be Major Junior, it is that simple.

The BCHL does not rival the USHL in any way. Not competitively, or developmentally. They are a great Tier II league, just like the AJHL is great and as are others in Canada.

Inequity will always exist in junior hockey as long as there are agreements between the NHL and Major Junior. The idea that Junior A can serve two masters, the NCAA and Major Junior is simply untenable. Like players, junior leagues must choose their path.

You either focus on Major Junior development or NCAA. There is no possible way to do both effectively. Leagues at all levels must establish their identity. Something the USHL, NAHL and NCDC have done in the United States. Each has a clearly identifiable model that is distinctively different from the others.

Why even mention Canadian University hockey in this proposal if you have absolutely no plan to try to make it better? Why as a Canadian junior league do you want to promote American NCAA programs over your own Canadian programs?

USA Hockey and the collective United States hockey community has worked for decades to make the NCAA what it is today. Maybe Hockey Canada should do the same? Maybe more import restrictions in Canadian Junior Hockey are really what is needed?

Internal rule making, branding, and identity programs are league internal initiatives. Not governing body initiatives.

The fact that Hockey Canada may see Junior A as a development platform for Major Junior is inconsequential when it comes to league design or rule making. I can view a plane as a bus, but my view does not make it so.

These ideas will simply never be enacted. The inequities are too great. In the end, no model is perfect, and is only designed to mitigate inequities for the people involved. In this regard the BCHL proposal completely fails.

Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser

[email protected]

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