(Trail Times file image)

B.C. boasts best Junior A League in nation

Sports ‘n’ Things with Dave Thompson, Trail Times columnist

At a time when most locals have turned towards the waning days of the NHL regular season for their hockey fix, I want to give the BCHL can one last kick, as it were.

I regularly claim the BCHL is, by far, the strongest Junior A hockey league around. It attracts the most talent, at the top end and in depth, of all such organizations.

Other A leagues have talented players, but far fewer of them. This year’s playoff rounds show plenty of evidence of that.

In the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba Junior A circuits, the playoffs are dominated by the regular season powerhouses. First place teams in the AJHL, SJHL and MJHL, from all their divisions, have moved into the semi-finals or finals in their respective playoff rounds.

That is because those teams are the only ones in those leagues with the kind of talent virtually every team in the BCHL annually attracts, despite the fact teams in those leagues are generally older, with more 20 year old players across the board than are allowed in the BCHL.

The same has held for the KIJHL this season. Three of four first place teams made the league semi-finals and two of those are almost finished battling for the playoff championship.

In the BCHL, none of the four first place regular season finishers (counting the tie between Merritt and Penticton to round out that four, are still alive heading towards the league finals. Only one second place team in any of the divisions, the Prince George Spruce Kings of the mainland division, remains in the mix, and they will likely play the fourth place club from the interior, the Vernon Vipers, who were eighth overall in the regular season.

Verrnon, you will recall, took seven games to oust the 14th ranked Trail Smoke Eaters in the playoff rounds, and Interior third place Wenatchee struggled against the 16th ranked Cowichan Valley Capitals in their quarter-final.

That is balance, and a balance of talent, not seen in any other A league in the country. It just is the case that, every year, almost every team in the BCHL would be a top end competitor in every other A level league, even despite the looser age restrictions elsewhere.

Something the league can hang its hat on, and fans can be very proud of, regardless of the outcome of this year’s National Jr. A final (formerly RBC Cup) tournament. We support and nourish the best hockey league at our level in the country, and it is not close.• Statisticians may need to find a new way to compute earned run average for the MLB, to somehow account for the first week of the regular season for reliever Trevor Rosenthal.

The Washington chucker has come on to face nine batters over the week. All nine reached base (four walks, four singles and one home run). Not only that, but all nine scored earned runs. That means Rosenthal’s ERA (among the premier evaluation stats around) is infinite.

It will stay that way until he gets somebody out – assuming he gets another opportunity. Then it will just be really, really, awfully high.

Probably makes your week look a lot better now, however it went.

Minor ball starts right now around here.

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