Less than two weeks after the BCHL deliberately made a press release about five teams from the AJHL joining the BCHL for the 2024-2025 season, those same five teams have now left the AJHL to play immediately in the BCHL.
Lets look at the timeline of events.
The BCHL announced they had reached these agreements with the five AJHL teams in January. A few days after the announcement, the AJHL had cancelled a few games in order to try to figure out where this would lead. A few days later, the AJHL let those five teams begin play again as part of the league with an altered schedule.
During this time, one of the AJHL team owners circulated an email that said the announcement from the BCHL was not authorized, and was not to be made until May 1, 2024. That email also said that none of the AJHL teams had signed any agreements yet.
Fast forward, and now agreements have been signed, and those five teams are now immediately part of the BCHL.
Junior Hockey is a big business. The BCHL and these five teams have made a business decision. No one has a reall problem with the decision. Everyone in Canada knew these teams started talking to the BCHL nearly two years ago.
The problem for these five teams and the BCHL is not that these events too place, but how they took place and the position players are now put in. These five teams have now impacted the careers of more than one hundred players in a way that they had no idea about, and had no control or input over the outcome.
Many of these players who are now pawns in the game being played by team owners were recruited under the now impossible idea of being able to compete for a National Championship. And this was a very important recruiting tool used by the five teams now a part of the BCHL.
No matter how pretty a picture the BCHL tries to paint for these players and fans, the fact is that these players have now been forced to leave their league of choice, and have lost what would have been one of the greatest scouting opportunities of their careers in a National Championship setting.
People within CJHL member clubs, are not even bothered by the fact that these teams left the CJHL or Hockey Canada. One person saying “if they want to leave, then leave, theres the door”. The odds for other teams within other leagues to play for a National Championship just got better.
Again, a business decision is a business decision. No problem with that. The problem is with how it has been handled in a completely unprofessional, and disrespectful manner.
What does it say about team owners who wont communicate with their current league that they will likely leave, before actually making the decision to leave? What does it say about the BCHL making the announcement before documents were signed? What does it say about these five teams leaving after they were given permission to finich the season in the AJHL, and after playing AJHL games, with AJHL referees, and AJHL insurance?
What message is sent to players and parents by these five teams who went through this chain of events without being honest with the players who now will not get what they were promised? What messgae does it send about the BCHL as a league that they would now, after the email was leaked, essentially force these teams into joining immediately or lose the opportunity to join?
Professional people would have sommunicated with everyone during or well before beginning the process. Thats called transparency. The BCHL left the CJHL before leaving Hockey Canada, and they made no secret they were doing it. A year later they left Hockey Canada, and again it wasnt a secret. The result? After the initial shock, no one really caared that much. So why do this now, and why handle this in such an unprofessional manner?
While the BCHL is getting national news coverage out of this, it will only last a little while. And by the end of the season, it will be pretty much forgotten over the summer.
The AJHL will add new teams to replace these defectors. And they will move on, while creating a lot of new opportunity for players to play in their league. Those players knowing they will be able to compete for a National Championship and have opportunities to play in or on Hockey Canada and CJHL events.
If you look at things in the simplest terms, the AJHL will benefit. Getting rid of teams who cant be trusted and adding new teams is a win. Franchise fee’s and camps just created more revenu.
For the BCHL, they gained five really good and competitive teams. They did so by showing the world that the BCHL will do whats best for the BCHL first, and whats best for players second. This was a selfish “hey look at me” move, and the timing of it screams bad leadership.
Be careful what you wish for.