BCHL breaks away from Hockey Canada, says move gives U18 players more options

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BURNABY, B.C. — The British Columbia Hockey League is breaking away from Hockey Canada, a move the league says will provide more options for players under 18 years old that are looking to compete in college hockey in the United States.

The BCHL, a junior A league with 17 teams in B.C. and one in Washington, said in a release that all of its franchises will operate outside of Hockey Canada's system starting June 1.

The move will allow BCHL teams to recruit 16- and 17-year-olds from other provinces, which is currently against Hockey Canada regulations.

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The league says that will allow players without a competitive junior A option in their own provinces to remain in Canada while maintaining their NCAA eligibility.

“We are entering a new era that will eliminate barriers and change the landscape of junior hockey in Canada," BCHL chairman Graham Fraser said in a statement.

Hockey Canada rules state that players looking to play junior A hockey must do so in their own province.

That rule does not apply to the major junior teams under the Canadian Hockey League umbrella, but CHL players are ineligible from participating in NCAA hockey. The NCAA considers the CHL to be a professional league because it includes players that have signed NHL contracts.

"The BCHL sends more players to NCAA Division I teams than all other junior hockey leagues in Canada combined," said Fraser. "During the past season there were 411 BCHL alumni on NCAA rosters, making up nearly a quarter of all Division I college hockey. That is exciting, but we aspire to do more for players and to provide a higher level of hockey for our fans. Under the current system, that’s just not possible."

The BCHL says it has established its own insurance plan for players and staff to replace the Hockey Canada plan.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2023.

The Canadian Press