Recently, the Victoria Grizzlies announced the 2021 details of their U18 and U16 BC Spring Hockey League teams. Prospective players looking to play can apply online for a chance to play on one of the two Grizzlies teams.
The Grizzlies are one of several BC Hockey League teams who ice U18 and U16 squads in the BCSHL. The 2021 season is the third time Victoria will send teams to play in the league. In 2020, the BCSHL didn’t operate because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Typically, junior A teams have always put on development camps for players to attend. The Grizzlies announced several such hockey camps in the last few months. This league is different than a hockey camp. It’s a showcase league meant to mimic regular season junior A play.
With this article, I want to outline how the league works and who is involved. I also want to note the players who played in the spring league and wound up on BCHL teams.
According to the BCSHL website, each participating BCHL team has a U18 and U16 squad. In 2019, the teams included Chilliwack Chiefs, Coquitlam Express, Cowichan Valley Capitals, Langley Rivermen, Surrey Eagles, and West Kelowna Warriors.
In total, there are four showcase tournaments. Each team plays three games per tournament and twelve games in total. Games mimic regular season BCHL games in style and structure. During the first nine games, teams receive two points per win and one point per overtime loss.
Games 10 through 12 determine seeding for the playoffs and the top four teams advance to the championship. Those teams play single elimination games to determine the finalists.
— Victoria Grizzlies (@BCHLGrizzlies) July 1, 2019
The winner of first vs. fourth place game plays the winner of the second vs. third place game. The entire BCSHL season runs from May to July 2021.
In past years, several different teams iced squads for the tournament. These teams include the Wenatchee Wild and the Olds Grizzlys from the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Several BCHL teams have iced two teams in the same division. However, participating BCHL teams are now limited to one squad per division.
The Grizzlies’ teams and other alumni
According to the recruitment page, prospective players must pay a fee of $2100. Then the Grizzlies review applications and contact a player’s references.
The Grizzlies use this program as a pipeline to scout and evaluate prospective players, and possibly sign them to the primary junior A team.
On the recruitment page, the Grizzlies list five players that joined the team after playing in the spring league. Michael Hoekstra, Connor Eddy, and Tyler Waram each played for the Grizzlies U18 teams. Desmond Arthurs and Dryden DeMelo have played on both the Grizzlies U16 and U18 teams.
These current Grizzlies players are five of the alumni from the spring league. Aside from them, several spring league alumni made BCHL teams.
The first example is Salmon Arm Silverbacks rookie goaltender Liam Vanderkooi. Vanderkooi was a member of the U18 Chilliwack Chiefs squad in 2019.
Another example is future Surrey Eagles forward Ante Zlomslic. Zlomslic played for the U18 Coquitlam Express squad in 2019.
The future of the spring league
As state above, the 2020 BCSHL season never happened. COVID-19 restrictions wreaked havoc on several different sports leagues across British Columbia and around the world. Leagues like the Western Lacrosse Association cancelled their season completely because of the pandemic.
The BCSHL offers many of the same features as traditional summer hockey schools and hockey camps. However, unlike a hockey school, this league offers players the chance to faceoff in competitive games, and there’s a big difference between scrimmaging and playing.
It wouldn’t surprise me if more players from the spring league started making BCHL rosters in the future.