2024-25 BCHL schedule breakdown

As summer arrives, we officially start the road to the 2024-25 season. This season will see a massive change to the British Columbia Hockey League by integrating five Alberta-based teams into the regular season after they moved to join the league this past February.

This is the first season that the BCHL will have four divisions, two in each conference. At most, the league has only featured three divisions in the past. Also, 2024-25 is the first season since 1973-74 that the Merritt Centennials are not part of the BCHL. They ceased operations at the end of the 2023-24 season after 51 consecutive years. The Cents will continue as an expansion team in the Junior A Tier 2 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.

As the second season of independent hockey commences for the BCHL, we see the return of affiliate players from other independent leagues. The Junior Prospects Hockey League signed an agreement with the BCHL last season, and now with the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League becoming independent, it opens up more opportunities for players to experience college-tracking hockey in British Columbia.

Part of the off-season in the BCHL is the anticipation of the release of the regular season schedule. This year, fans were eager to see which Alberta teams would visit their town, and which Alberta cities their hometown team would make the trek across the Rockies to visit for the first time during the regular season. Some squads will be renewing a rivalry from the old Doyle Cup days.

2024-25 regular season

This season sees the Coastal Conference split into two divisions. The Coastal East Division consists of four teams located in B.C.’s Lower Mainland region plus the Prince George Spruce Kings. The Coastal West Division is made up of the five teams from the former Island Division.

The five former Interior Division teams in Salmon Arm, Penticton, Vernon, West Kelowna, and Trail are now in the Interior West Division. The five Alberta teams and Cranbrook comprise the Interior East Division. Not to toot my own horn, but I correctly predicted this alignment in my realignment article here.

The Chilliwack Chiefs are the only team in the Coastal Conference to not play an Interior West Division team this season The other four Coastal East teams play one game each against an Interior West team.

The Coastal East Division matches up with the Interior East Division and the Coastal West Division plays the Interior West Division to try and minimize travel for all the teams.

The regular season kicks off on Sept. 20 with 10 games on the slate. Only the Langley Rivermen get the night off. Nine of the 10 opening night matchups are inter-conference games except for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks journeying to Duncan, B.C. to open up their season against the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

The Fred Page Cup champion Surrey Eagles have their banner-raising ceremony on opening night against their division rival Prince George Spruce Kings. The Penticton Vees, coming off a return to the BCHL finals, are the first B.C. team to cross the Rockies as they open up on the road in Alberta against the Spruce Grove Saints. The Vees play all five Alberta teams over the first three weeks of the season.

Sherwood Park and Blackfalds are the first Alberta teams to make the 10-plus hour trip to the Lower Mainland where they each play the Chilliwack Chiefs and Surrey Eagles, respectively.

Prince George is the first Coastal East team to play in Alberta as the Spruce Kings visit Okotoks on Oct. 11 and then return to Brooks, the home of their epic Doyle Cup and National Junior A championship showdown with the Bandits in 2019.

Salmon Arm and Penticton renew their back-to-back Interior Conference championship series rivalry on Oct. 11. The Vees also have the lone game on Remembrance Day, against the Trail Smoke Eaters.

The last day before the short five-day holiday break is Dec. 21 with Sherwood Park visiting Spruce Grove and Alberni Valley earning their BC Ferries loyalties points by traveling to Coquitlam.

The second half starts on Dec. 27 with two games. The West Kelowna Warriors travel to face the Cranbrook Bucks and the Victoria Grizzlies are in Chilliwack. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day together have four games over two days with three of the four in Alberta.

Trail and Cranbrook close out 2024 by renewing their Kootenay region rivalry. In Wild Rose Country, Okotoks heads to Blackfalds.

2025 starts with Salmon Arm in Brooks and Blackfalds travels to Okotoks in the second half of their New Year’s home-and-home.

The Chilliwack Chiefs make their first trip to Alberta since 2002 when they play the Okotoks Oilers for the first time. On that same trip, the Chiefs meet the Brooks Bandits, who they last played in the 2017 Western Canada Cup final and were blown out 7-1.

The regular season ends Mar. 30 with Okotoks at Sherwood Park and Powell River making the long trip up to Prince George.

2024 BCHL Showcase

The BCHL has been putting on its annual showcase since 2012. Last season, the Seattle Iceplex and the National Hockey League’s Seattle Kraken hosted last year’s event. This year’s host has not yet been announced and given that the league has grown to 21 teams, I suspect it could return to Chilliwack or Penticton as each city has two rinks that can be used.

The Showcase schedule is a little tricky but from the hints in the regular season schedule, the matchups might be predictable. Here are what I think they will be.

  • Alberni Valley Bulldogs vs. Blackfalds Bulldogs and West Kelowna Warriors
  • Blackfalds Bulldogs vs. Alberni Valley Bulldogs and Prince George Spruce Kings
  • Brooks Bandits vs. Coquitlam Express and Surrey Eagles
  • Chilliwack Chiefs vs. Spruce Grove Saints and Cranbrook Bucks
  • Coquitlam Express vs. Brooks Bandits and Spruce Grove Saints
  • Cowichan Valley Capitals vs. Vernon Vipers and Trail Smoke Eaters
  • Cranbrook Bucks vs. Chilliwack Chiefs and West Kelowna Warriors
  • Langley Rivermen vs. Okotoks Oilers and Sherwood Park Crusaders
  • Nanaimo Clippers vs. Salmon Arm Silverbacks and Okotoks Oilers
  • Okotoks Oilers vs. Langley Rivermen and Nanaimo Clippers
  • Penticton Vees vs. Victoria Grizzlies and Powell River Kings
  • Powell River Kings vs. Trail Smoke Eaters and Penticton Vees
  • Prince George Spruce Kings vs. Blackfalds Bulldogs and Vernon Vipers
  • Salmon Arm Silverbacks vs. Nanaimo Clippers and Victoria Grizzlies
  • Sherwood Park Crusaders vs. Surrey Eagles and Langley Rivermen
  • Spruce Grove Saints vs. Coquitlam Express and Chilliwack Chiefs
  • Surrey Eagles vs. Sherwood Park and Brooks Bandits
  • Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Cowichan Valley Capitals and Powell River Kings
  • Vernon Vipers vs. Cowichan Valley Capitals and Prince George Spruce Kings
  • Victoria Grizzlies vs. Penticton Vees and Salmon Arm SilverBacks
  • West Kelowna Warriors vs. Alberni Valley Bulldogs and Cranbrook Bucks