Mapping out a BCHL and junior B farm system


(This article was originally published on May. 25, 2020)

Junior hockey doesn’t have a formal farm system like the NHL, but could it? The Pacific Junior Hockey League announced on May 15th that Chilliwack has been awarded an expansion team for the 2020-21 season making it seven BCHL cities with junior B teams in their communities.

The BCHL could be ahead of the curve when it comes to this topic. Currently, many affiliate players for BCHL teams play for academy programs or major midget teams. Having the opportunity for BCHL teams to have younger players develop in junior B, playing against players two to three years older would make training camps more competitive and the league possibly more competitive overall.

I’m sure the BCHL governors could sit down with teams from the three junior B leagues based in British Columbia to see if they can work out a partnership. Let’s look at the possible pairings of the 18 BCHL teams to 18 junior B teams around the province. Most of the pairings are logical due to geographic location.

Coastal Conference

Chilliwack Chiefs:  The Chilliwack Jets and the Chiefs obviously share the same city but play in a different arena. If an agreement couldn’t be reached with the PJHL’s newest team, the Chiefs could potentially use the Abbotsford Pilots or Mission City Outlaws, who are both located nearby.

Langley Rivermen: The Langley Trappers share everything with the Rivermen, including ownership, home arena, logo style, jersey design, and city. In fact, Rivermen season tickets include tickets to the Trappers. However, if they want to go a different route, the Riv could look at the Surrey Knights, Ridge Meadows Flames or Aldergrove Kodiaks, all are within a 30 min drive.

Surrey Eagles: Logically, the White Rock Whalers are only five minutes away. Located geographically in the same city, the Surrey Knights are 30 minutes away and would make sense as well.

Coquitlam Express: The Express doesn’t have the luxury of its Lower Mainland counterparts by having a junior B team in its city. The Grandview Steelers play out of the Burnaby Winter Club. Since the Express used to play in Burnaby and won an RBC Cup there, it would help honor that part of the franchise’s history. The Port Moody Panthers could also be an option given their location.

Victoria Grizzlies: The Grizzlies could be paired with any of the six teams in the South Division of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. The Westshore Wolves are the best choice because they share the same arena as the Grizzlies. However, the Saanich Braves, Victoria Cougars, Kelly Park Islanders, and  Pennisula Panthers would be logical choices as well.

Nanaimo Clippers: In a similar situation to Chilliwack, the Clippers and Nanaimo Buccaneers play in the same city but different arenas, which makes a natural pairing. The Clippers could also use the Kerry Park Islanders or the Peninsula Panthers, which are both within 90 minutes of the Hub City.

Powell River Kings: There are no junior B teams really close to Powell River, but there is a ferry from there that goes straight to Comox, home of the Glacier Kings. Ferry travel would definitely be a factor. The Campbell River Storm is another possibility. The North Vancouver Wolf Pack could also be an option, but given that they are two ferries and four hours away, it’s very far fetched.

Alberni Valley Bulldogs: The Bulldogs are closer to Parksville than Courtenay making an easier choice to pair them up with the Oceanside Generals rather than the Glacier Kings.

Cowichan Valley Capitals: The geographical proximity of Duncan and Mill Bay make the pairing work best for the Kerry Park Islanders. It’s only an 18 minute drive between the two communities. However, the Capitals could also use the Saanich Braves or Peninsula Panthers.

Interior Conference

Penticton Vees: At just under 17 kilometers apart, the Summerland Steam is closer to Penticton than any other team in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. The Osoyoos Coyotes, who are a 50 minute drive from the Peach City, and the Princeton Posse, which are 80 minutes away, could be potential options.

West Kelowna Warriors: The Kelowna Chiefs are just across town from the Warriors and also compete against Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League for fans and support. These two could benefit from each other. There aren’t many other options for the Warriors, but they could use Summerland if Penticton went with another option.

Vernon Vipers: Given that the North Okanagan Knights play in Armstrong, which is just a 20 minute drive away, the Vipers are the closest team geographically. There are other junior B teams further north, but given logistics and travel, the Knights are the best option for Vernon.

Salmon Arm Silverbacks: You could make the case for North Okanagan to be paired with the Backs given that Salmon Arm assistant coach Tanner Cochrane played for the team, but the Sicamous Eagles are geographically closer than Armstrong. You could also make the case for the Revelstoke Grizzlies and the Chase Heat.

Trail Smoke Eaters: Fruitvale is closer to Trail than any other team in the KIJHL, so the Beaver Valley Nitehawks make the most sense geographically. Similar to Victoria, the Smoke Eaters could choose from a number of junior B teams close by, including the Nelson Leafs, Grand Forks Border Bruins, and Castlegar Rebels.

Cranbrook Bucks: Cranbrook has a long history of successful junior B teams having won 11 KIJHL championships. The Kimberley Dynamiters are the closest team to the newest BCHL club. The Bucks could also look at the Fernie Ghostriders, Creston Valley Thundercats, or going a bit further out there – the Columbia Valley Rockies, who play in Invermere.

Merritt Centennials: The Cents are the most western-based team in the Interior Conference and the Kamloops Storm is the most western-based team in the KIJHL, which makes the pairing work best. The travel time between the two cities is just under an hour. The Centennials could also use the Princeton Posse but the Lower Similkameen city is a little further than Kamloops.

Prince George Spruce Kings: Prince George is really far from any of the teams in the KIJHL but the 100 Mile House Wranglers are on the way up there, making them the natural choice for the Spruce Kings. There is really no other option until – and if – the KIJHL expands to Quesnel or Williams Lake.

Wenatchee Wild: The logical choice for the Wild is the Spokane Braves. They are the only US-based team in the KIJHL and the drive from Wenatchee to Spokane is just over 2.5 hours. Another option is the Osoyoos Coyotes, which are located only about 10 minutes in travel time further than Spokane.

There are a lot of logistics that would have to go into any sort a farm system but it’s fun to speculate on how a system like this could potentially strengthen both the junior A and junior B levels of hockey in BC.