The BC Hockey League is no longer a member of the Canadian Junior Hockey League, this we know. But there are still lots of questions about what it actually means.
The CJHL announced on Apr. 9 it received notice for the BCHL to withdraw from the umbrella organization effective Mar. 24 of this year and the BCHL later confirmed it.
The BCHL was very quick to proclaim that its departure from the CJHL doesn’t mean it is becoming an outlaw league operating on its own without any Hockey Canada and BC Hockey jurisdiction.
BCHL statement on the CJHL. pic.twitter.com/128qd8vL1q
— BCHL (@BCHockeyLeague) April 10, 2021
However, the withdrawal likely means BCHL teams and their players aren’t eligible to play the CJHL Prospects Game. The jury’s still out on the Centennial Cup national junior A championship and the World Junior A Challenge as those are both Hockey Canada-organized and sanctioned events.
Participation in those events is on the table in the BCHL’s discussions with Hockey Canada. One would think BC Hockey wants the chance for a team from its jurisdiction to have the opportunity to play for a national championship, but there’s certainly no guarantee it will happen.
Can BCHL players play in the Centennial Cup or WJAC?
In an article from My Prince George Now, CJHL commissioner Brent Ladds told reporter Brendan Pawliw he can’t see a situation where Hockey Canada allows the BCHL to negotiate its own agreement to have players eligible to play in the Centennial Cup or World Junior A Challenge.
“That would be a challenge because those are the benefits of playing in the CJHL. I think from our perspective we probably would question the ability for them to access those benefits within the CJHL, especially with the agreement we have with Hockey Canada,” said Ladds.
Ultimately, it’s seemingly Hockey Canada’s decision whether BCHL clubs are eligible to compete for the Centennial Cup or not. Indications are the BCHL continues to have discussions with Hockey Canada regarding its withdrawal from the CJHL and what the implications of the withdrawal are.
Since Hockey Canada says it always has the players’ development in mind, it doesn’t make sense that it wouldn’t work with the BCHL on an agreement. There were many leagues, including the BCHL, who worked with Hockey Canada before the CJHL was formed in 1993.
— CJHL (@cjhlhockey) April 9, 2021
However, if Hockey Canada says it won’t have an associate member or partner agreement with an individual league, the BCHL is kind of stuck. The league makes it very clear that it is still under the BC Hockey umbrella and is in discussion with Hockey Canada exactly what the agreement is and relationships are with other junior A leagues and branches going forward.
Setting a new precedent with Hockey Canada
The precedent is that the Canadian Hockey League, with the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior League, and Western Hockey League, and U SPORTS, with Atlantic University Sport, Canada West, and Ontario University Athletics, each have agreements with Hockey Canada as associate members or partners.
Both the Canadian Hockey League and U SPORTS, among others, are considered partners of Hockey Canada’s, including the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
Hockey Canada’s bylaws state that its Board, “may grant Partner status to additional organizations at such times and on such terms as it deems appropriate”.
The bylaws also note that “Partners shall have no voting rights, other than in the Committees or Task Teams on which they serve, and shall not be deemed Members of Hockey Canada”. My guess is this is the status the BCHL is looking for.
As a matter of note, the date for players to be able to officially sign with a team in the Hockey Canada Registry for the 2021-22 season is June 1.
It could be the BCHL simply leaves the announcement as it did on Twitter last month and proceeds as normal in the 2021-22 season, as a member of BC Hockey, which it still is, and as an associate member of Hockey Canada, if that status is granted.