One wonders what will happen to the Prince George Spruce Kings, now the most far flung of franchises. For interior teams, even the newly-created Chilliwack (ex-Quesnel) club, the trip to Prince is now by far the longest they will take – Trail will seem close by comparison – and for the bus to pass through any other BCHL territory on its way there and back will require a much more circuitous route.
For the newly-minted scheduling office this will be a problem. What used to be a two-game trip for mainland or coastal teams will now become a very long ride for just one contest if the long standing practice for out-of-division (one game/year in a non-division opponent’s rink) scheduling holds. For Prince George, which benefitted from having a BCHL opponent just an hour away, the prospect is for daunting travel every second weekend and no more mid-week close encounters.
If the Spruce Kings crumble under that prospect, few would blame them. That would, however, put Trail in the crosshairs as the longest ride for Okanagan clubs which otherwise could offer players early nights in their own beds for division play outside Chilliwack.
Its not a stretch to think many if not most in the league would love the idea of a compact interior division which didn’t include Not-B.C. teams like the Spruce Kings and Smokies.
The smallest of the smaller clubs, Merritt, is situated en route for travel between divisions and may not be under pressure within the new regime.
It will be interesting to see what shakes out at next spring’s league meetings.
The draft move seems iffy, and draft day might be, sort-of, ignored by most teams, which already spend much of their year scouting and attempting to attract young talent. It’s a move the bigger, for-profit,
BCHL franchises, who have always hated sharing the talent pool with smaller clubs like Trail and Merritt, likely pushed for – in hopes that some years they will be able to force top youngsters away from their home areas by snatching up their rights on draft day.
You know, make sure a team like Trail can’t hog a Mellor and a St. Dennis and a Walker all at the same time.
Think of it this way – a player developed, nurtured, etc. by a local minor association, be it the Rossland-Trail one that brought the junior A Smokies here or a broader, Kootenay-based one, may not be able to play (at least in his affiliate season) here, even if he wants to.
That just sounds wrong, and not just the Smokies think the whole draft idea is a bad one.
Conversly, the draft concept might help out AAA midget in rural areas, with parents and kids choosing that route for upper tier hockey over accepting what the junior leagues decree. That outcome is precisely what Hockey Canada has been hoping for on behalf of the major junior Western Hockey League teams, which maintain rights from their own 15-year-old draft and don’t like their choices opting for the Junior A route.
Pulling the western team(s) out of the Royal Bank Cup is about time and money, and the league and the Smokies can be on the same page for it.
That’s one of the few things about the new regime for which that claim can be made. Most of the rest of it is designed to make things harder for Not-B.C. locales to maintain franchises.
All we can do for now is wait and watch, and hope, of course, for a very strong Smoke Eater season, on and off the ice.