The Canadian Junior Hockey League held its annual meeting just over a week ago in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Proposals for player movement and import restrictions were discussed and new rules have been adopted.
In years past CJHL teams were allowed a total of eight “import players”. This included imports from the United States as well as “import players” from other Canadian Provinces. Many teams in many Canadian leagues were hopping to have the import restrictions that were in place as they related to “out of province players” removed.
The voting went the way of the teams looking for removal of the out of province player restrictions. This will allow for an expansion of recruiting efforts in every league. Teams in British Columbia can now safely recruit in Ontario, and those in Ontario may recruit in Alberta. Opening the provincial borders will allow for well run organizations to take advantage of their strengths on a national level now.
Also on the table was a proposed reduction of true import players. It has been reported that many were hopping to reduce the import levels to six United States based players per team, with additional reductions planned for ensuing years. The vote ended up reducing the number from eight to seven. The number of import players will be further reduced to six in 2014-15. The CJHL will review further reductions before the 2015-16 season.
In previous years, import players were no longer considered import after playing for one season in the CJHL. They were essentially granted “status” after a year. In theory teams could have built a complete “import” player team in three years. Now, an import player will always be an import player.
The CJHL also adopted an inter-league player-transfer freeze that will cut off movement from December 10 to January 1 each year, and a ‘return to team’ rule has been introduced for players returning from other levels of hockey, including NCAA, Canadian university and the major junior Canadian Hockey League.
The rule changes will essentially make it harder for United States born players to go to Canada to play over the next few years. Many are speculating that the import player reductions are being made to fall in line with import player restrictions put in place by USA Hockey as they relate to United States based junior programs.
With rumors of unauthorized player compensation in order to induce players to report to teams in the past, the CJHL also addressed that issue.
The CJHL has very strict rules, limiting any kind of payment or benefits players can receive that would jeopardize their NCAA or Canadian Interuniversity Sport eligibility. If a team is found to be unfairly compensating even one player, it would essentially be the same as an NCAA death penalty and every player in the organization would lose their NCAA and CIS eligibility.
The CJHL is evolving like many other operations, those that evolve and grow eventually become stronger. It looks like the CJHL’s leadership has the right plan to grow and change with the times while becoming stronger as a group.