BCHL: Meetings focus on reducing player movement

Team cards reduced, season to start later in September.

The BCHL wrapped up its annual general meeting on the weekend in Richmond and the main consensus coming out the meeting focused on the players and their development.

While financial health of franchises, scheduling and playoff structure were among the usual topics of conversation, the league took a big step in corralling the constant shuffling of players that has grown over the last decade.

To that end, the number of cards available to each team has been reduced from 45 to 35. In short, this will hopefully stop the process of mass signing players only to release them or shuffle them off as more players become available.

Trail Smoke Eater president Tom Gawryletz said the move will help both franchises and players.

“I think it will stop teams moving players around like pawns,” he explained. “It will also stop teams from making promises to every kid.”

He said with 45 cards, teams were signing players who were under the impression they were on the team. However, with the flexibility of 45 cards, teams often cut many of those players before the season even started.

Gawryletz said the change is being pushed by Hockey Canada and B.C. “took the initiative,” to be the first in the country to jump on board.

“I’m completely behind that,” agreed Smokies head coach and general manger Nick Deschenes.

“It makes teams really work with the players they have. You have to be more selective and engaged with the players.”

The move will put more emphasis on scouting and recruiting and, Gawryletz said, the teams that work at it will succeed.

With that in mind, Deschenes, who considers himself a “developer” of players, was happy to focus on four local players who will have a big impact on the team next season.

“We think Jake Lucchini, Scott Davidson, Craig Martin and Dallas Calvin will be big contributors next year,” said Deschenes of the local products. “It’s rare to have so many local players. I think it says a lot about the people who helped develop them.”

He pointed to organizations like the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and the Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association as key components in developing players that move up the local chain.

“Our intentions are to work with these organizations and pave the way for more players to move up.”

While player development is a key issue for the BCHL, there’s no denying the current precarious financial situation facing many teams.

The Smokies reported over a $70,000 loss last season and the trend rippled through the league, said Gawryletz.

“We’re all in the same boat.”

He’s hoping the new schedule, which is slated to be complete by the end of the month, will help somewhat.

The league will hold its Showcase event in Chilliwack on Sept. 19 to 21 and home schedules will begin Sept. 26.

Gawryletz said getting away from an early September start should help with attendance, since most fans will be back from vacation and the weather will begin to be more suited to getting fans thinking hockey.

While the start of the home schedules is roughly two weeks later, Trail played its first home game on Sept. 13 last year, training camps will keep the usual schedule and the gap will be filled by exhibition games.

“We’re working on something right now,” said Gawryletz.

With a later start and the same March 1 finish, it will mean a more compressed schedule with more weekday games.

The task now falls on the Smokies executive to get fans to come to those tough-draw midweek games and generate game-night revenue.

The Richmond meeting also confirmed the legue will be sticking with its current playoff format featuring best-of-seven series in the first two rounds and a three-team round robin in the third round. The season will be capped off with a best-of-seven Fred Page Cup final between the two surviving teams.