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Vancouver Island junior league withdraws from Hockey Canada

KIJHL, PJHL reaffirm committment to BC Hockey and Hockey Canada
The VIJHL’s Saanich Predators made their final appearance at the Mowat Cup this year, as the VIJHL announced its withdrawal from BC Hockey. Paul Rodgers photo.

The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) declared its independence and has withdrawn from Hockey Canada.

The board representing 11 VIJHL teams voted to withdraw from its affiliation with Hockey Canada and BC Hockey to enhance the development opportunities for its players and give the league greater autonomy in the future.

“The VIJHL is pleased to announce our move to become an independent league starting next season and to operate outside of Hockey Canada’s umbrella going forward,” said VIJHL President Simon Morgan in a release. “After months of hard work behind the scenes by the ownership group of our 11 franchises, this decision to move the VIJHL into a new space in junior hockey will allow players more opportunities for development going forward.”

The move will give the VIJHL the freedom to make affiliations with the independent BC Hockey League (BCHL) Junior A teams, which now includes five of the former top Alberta Junior Hockey League teams as well. The BCHL left Hockey Canada and BC Hockey to form an independent league on June 1, 2023.

The VIJHL release said it will also have the ability to make decisions that are in their best interests, increase the player pool and raise the level of play in the league and much more.

Their withdrawal from Hockey Canada and its members means the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) and the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) are the remaining Junior A teams sanctioned by Hockey Canada in B.C.

In response, the KIJHL and the PJHL reaffirmed their commitment to remain as sanctioned members of Hockey Canada and BC Hockey.

“The BCHC and its member leagues are fully committed to operating under the Hockey Canada and BC Hockey umbrella,” said KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois. “Over the past year, we have been making the necessary efforts and investments to elevate to the Junior A level, with the ultimate goal of providing our players with a pathway to compete in the Centennial Cup, Canada’s national Junior A championship.”

In 2022, the KIJHL and PJHL formed the BCHC to advance their level of junior hockey in B.C. and provide enhanced opportunities for athletes.

BCHC initiatives over the past two seasons have included the creation of a Department of Player Safety and the establishment of a Top Prospects Game, which has directly led to three recent participants signing in the Western Hockey League.

Since 1981, the KIJHL, PJHL and VIJHL champions, along with a rotating host team, have participated in a provincial junior championship tournament known previously as the Cyclone Taylor Cup (to 2023) and now known as the Mowat Cup (2024-onwards).

KIJHL and PJHL representatives have combined to win 38 of the 42 championships since the three-league format was adopted.

The Beaver Valley Nitehawks are a member of the KIJHL and have won the league championship eight times, are four-time B.C. champions, and perennial contenders for their Murdoch division title.

“We are very pleased with the progression of the KIJHL and PJHL as they move forward toward a strengthened Junior A in our province,” BC Hockey CEO Cameron Hope says. “These leagues have shown a clear, ongoing commitment to prioritizing the safety, development and playing experience of B.C. and Yukon players.

“We are disappointed with the decision of the VIJHL team owners to operate outside the safe and organized community sport model of sanctioned hockey, but we wish them well.”

READ: Trail Minor Hockey shares concerns over BC Hockey sanctions on BCHL

READ: Eight West Kootenay referees go all-in with BCHL

Jim Bailey

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