Wenatchee Wild to join BCHL Interior Division

The Trail Smoke Eaters division just got more competitive with the addition of the Wenatchee Wild

The BCHL’s Interior Division just got tougher for the Trail Smoke Eaters.

At the BCHL annual general meeting (AGM) earlier this month in Richmond, the league confirmed that the 2016-17 regular-season champion Wenatchee Wild will join the Smoke Eaters in the Interior Division for the 2017-18 season.

The move puts into effect a motion voted on prior to the AGM that sees Wenatchee move to the Interior Division after competing in the Mainland Division for the past two seasons.

“With the addition of Wenatchee it’s going to be a very, very tough division,” said Smoke Eater coach and GM Cam Keith.

The Wild move means the Interior will have seven teams, and although intensely more competitive, Trail will play a balanced schedule this year against Penticton, Vernon, Wenatchee, West Kelowna, Merritt, and Salmon Arm – playing each team six times. The Mainland and Island Divisions will each have five teams.

“Every team is equal in our division, three (home games) and three (away games), so it actually works out better,” said Keith. “I think we played four games (out of seven) in Penticton last year and four in Merritt so we kind of got the short end of the stick on that one.”

Trail played Wenatchee twice last season, losing both matches by scores of 6-1 in Wenatchee Nov. 12, and 5-4 at home on Feb. 12. The Wild led the league with 94 points going 45-9-4-0 but were swept by the Chilliwack Chiefs in the second round of the BCHL playoffs.

“Our division is very, very strong, which is good, because it will attract a lot more talented hockey players, and puts more on us to keep getting better,” said Keith.

The BCHL will open its 56th season in early September, but details are still being finalized for the regular season schedule and should be announced next week. For Keith and the Smoke Eaters, the preliminary schedule looks promising.

“We did the scheduling when we were in Vancouver and we got a very favourable schedule,” added Keith. “It won’t come out quite yet but we’re very happy with the amount of Friday home games that we got. Last year with travel if you play the majority of your home games on Saturday it makes it a lot tougher on the kids when they have to travel back that Friday night and play Saturday, so we’re excited about how the schedule turned out.”

AGM initiatives:

– The 2017 Bauer BCHL Showcase will go Sept. 20 to 24 at Prospera Centre in Chilliwack.

– The league also entered into a partnership agreement that will see each of its players undergo base-line concussion tests prior to participating in league games. The initial testing will be completed at the 2017 Bauer BCHL Showcase. When new players join the league, they will be tested prior to competing in their first game. The partnership is part of the BCHL’s ongoing efforts to ensure player safety.

– The BCHL renewed its commitment to an existing partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association of B.C. (CMHA BC) via its Talk Today Program where each team has a CMHA liaison who provides referrals to mental health and addictions support.

– Additional resources have been committed to the Ultimate Toolkit program for fan engagement and ticket sales. The initial phase of the program, in place for the 2017 BCHL playoffs, saw an increase in attendance of close to 24 per cent over the 2016 playoffs.

– BCHL clubs will be pursuing upgrades to their broadcast systems to get high-definition video for pay-per-view customers on HockeyTV.

– The BCHL will hold its first-ever Exposure Camp July 1 to 3 at Richmond Olympic Oval, with 132 elite young hockey players and their families attending to learn about the BCHL and its NCAA-development path.

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