The BC Hockey League’s 60th Anniversary season begins tonight with seven games on the schedule.
After a shortened 20-game pod season last year, the league is back to a full schedule with each team playing home and away games and a limited capacity for fans in the building. All teams and facilities are observing health-authority protocols in their region.
This season will also see all 18 teams back in the fold after the Wenatchee Wild and Langley Rivermen were on hiatus last year.
At the 2020 Semi-Annual Governor’s Meeting, the league approved a realignment to a two-conference format with the addition of the Cranbrook Bucks as the league’s 18th franchise.
Due to last year’s pod season, this realignment to the Coastal and Interior Conferences was put on hold until this year.
As part the realignment, the league’s playoff format has changed as well. There will no longer be a crossover or wildcard team with a balance of nine teams in each conference.
The top eight teams from each side will qualify for the postseason with first place playing eighth, second place playing seventh, and so on. The teams will re-seed after each round with the top seed playing the lowest. The winner of the two conferences will then faceoff in the Fred Page Cup Final.
Last week, the BCHL announced changes to the Wenatchee Wild schedule that mean the team will play 50 games rather than 54. With this unbalanced schedule, the BCHL standings will be sorted by point percentage, rather than pure points.
The BCHL Board of Governors approved several initiatives at the 2021 Annual General Meeting, including measures that strengthen the league’s stance against fighting.
The Department of Player Safety now has the ability to add an Instigator or Aggressor penalty to a fighting major upon review.
This is in addition to the rules that were implemented at the 2020 Annual General Meeting, where a player receives a suspension upon receiving his second Fighting major penalty of the season and will continue to receive increased discipline the more Fighting majors they accrue.
With a full season upcoming, the BCHL is holding its league events again this year.
The BCHL Showcase is set for Oct. 20 to 24 at the Chilliwack Coliseum.
The league has also introduced a new 60th Anniversary event Jan. 14 to 16 in Penticton, which will consist of an outdoor All-Star Weekend, including a 3-on-3 game, a skills competition and an alumni game.
The BCHL will announce additional events and initiatives in the coming weeks.