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Ways the BCHL could still play for the Centennial Cup

The BC Hockey League left the Canadian Junior Hockey League during the 2020-21 pod season. One of the consequences of leaving was not being able to host or compete for the Centennial Cup. The BCHL holds the record for most national junior A championship wins with 14, the last being in 2018 with the Chilliwack Chiefs.

I’m going to have a look at some options on how the BCHL still could host or compete for the Centennial Cup.

A look at history

This is the first time a whole league would have to find common ground for entry into the Centennial Cup field. A look back in history shows that a team not affiliated with the CJHL can still compete for the Centennial Cup. The Thunder Bay Flyers of the United States Hockey League competed in an American-based league but still competed in the Central Canada regional championship.

The Flyers, despite playing in the USHL, still had an opportunity as a Canadian team to compete for the Dudley Hewitt Cup each year. They won it four times in 12 years and were in the finals two additional times during that span. Thunder Bay is also the only non-CJHL club to win the Cenntenial Cup on two occasions – in 1989 over the Summerside Western Capitals and in 1992 over the Winkler Flyers.

The Flyers had an automatic berth into the Dudley Hewitt Cup playoffs and competed against the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League champion in a best-of-seven series before facing the winner of the Central Junior Hockey League vs. Quebec Junior A Hockey League series. From 1991-96, the Flyers received an automatic berth into the Dudley Hewitt Cup as the Thunder Bay representative.

How the BCHL and CJHL could cooperate

There are two ways the BCHL and CJHL could cooperate together so that it’s beneficial for all parties. The first option is to do as always and have the Alberta Junior Hockey League champions face the BCHL champions for the Doyle Cup BC-Alberta crown. This wouldn’t change anything for either league and everything stays status quo.

The second option is a little bit more complicated. Hockey Canada and the CJHL could expand the national championship to six teams and have the BCHL and AJHL playoff champions pick up automatic byes to the tournament. If a BC city is named host of the Centennial Cup national championship, that team would represent the BCHL at the tournament, getting to take part instead of the BCHL champions.

It is a shame that there appears to be no chance for the BCHL’s Fred Page Cup champions to face the AJHL’s Inter Pipeline Cup champions for the opportunity to represent the Pacific region in the Centennial Cup. It’s a shame because the BCHL has produced 14 Centennial or Royal Bank Cup championships since the title’s inception in 1971.

It is also an unfortunate situation as Penticton was slated to host the 2021 Cenntenial Cup but it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vees have also lost the opportunity to host a future tournament since the BCHL isn’t a member of the CJHL anymore.

The 2022 Centennial Cup is hosted by the Estevan Bruins of the SJHL and without the BCHL’s participation, the winner of the AJHL crown receives an automatic bye to the national championship tournament.