Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lots of Reaction to BCHL Rule Changes:

I already posted Centennials Coach & GM Luke Pierce's thoughts on all the BCHL's rule changes, but I thought I'd compile reactions from media around the league to the changes. These articles are in no particular order.

First, from the Trail Daily Times:

By Jim Bailey - Trail Daily Times
Published: May 16, 2011 3:00 PM

In an effort to raise the bottom line and improve player development, the BCHL introduced a number of changes last week that could impact the Trail Smoke Eaters

With the new rules, only eight teams will make the 2012 playoffs – four from each division.

While the Smokies made a good run at the top four last year, they finished fifth in the Interior Conference and would have been out of the playoffs.

In fact, says team president Tom Gawryletz, the Smokies would not have made the playoffs in each of the past five years.

The BCHL and the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba leagues are considering pulling out of the Royal Bank Cup after next year, so the move to limit playoffs to three rounds could be temporary, he added.

“One of the reasons being, is that the season is too short, so for us this year to start our season later and continue it on to about the second week of March, we had to eliminate one of the playoff rounds - the only way to do that was to eliminate some teams,” said Gawryletz.

“So this is hopefully just going to be a one year thing.”

The agreement with Hockey Canada has not been ideal so the BCHL along with the other three western junior leagues plan to create a western championship that will better suit their schedules.

“With Hockey Canada and the Royal Bank Cup, the time is just too tight - we all find that starting hockey the first week of September is just way too early in this province.”

As a result, the 2011 BCHL season has also been pushed back to September 23 and will end March 11, going to a half-interlock schedule that will see teams play every other team but not necessarily visit every building.

Despite the late start, the Smokies’ training camp will go as usual at the end of August, as will the popular season’s tune-up, the Labour Day weekend tournament.

Coach Bill Birks is in Salmon Arm scouting the Under-17 B.C. Cup for future talent but said in an interview last week that the Trail team lost seven players to scholarships this year, creating a substantial void.

However, the league also reduced team rosters from 23 to 21 players.

Having less players in the stands may limit a coach’s options, but it will benefit younger players and less competitive teams.

“The league looks at it that there were some kids on some teams that should be playing in the league and they were hitting on the 22nd - 23rd man roster on some of the better hockey clubs and unfortunately those kids weren’t getting the exposure – we just feel it’s better for everyone,” said Gawryletz.

The half-interlock schedule will emphasize inter-division rivalries so that the Smokies will only make one trip to the Lower Mainland, reducing costs but also potentially their number of wins.

“Those weekend trips are worth about $20,000 . . . so yeah, well save some money but at the same time it means we’re going to be playing the Pentictons and Vernons maybe instead of six times maybe eight, which I don’t think is a whole big deal but we’ll see.”

The new rules also legislate that each team must carry at least one 16-year-old and one 17-year-old player on the roster in an effort to develop homegrown talent.

The Smokies routinely carry a local 16- or 17-year old so that shouldn’t be an issue, he added.

The BCHL will also have an underage draft in October, that is meant to introduce 15-year-old players to the league and put them on affiliate rosters for the duration of the season. However, the team loses the rights to the player at the end of the season, a process that seems pointless to some teams.

“We already scout all the 15-year-old kids in the province . . . but if you’re not going to be able to protect those kids the following year, I think a lot of teams will take the attitude that we don’t need to worry about the draft.”

Now from Cowichan News Leader

By Don Bodger - Cowichan News Leader Pictorial
Published: May 16, 2011 6:00 AM

The Cowichan Valley Capitals will need to be a whole lot better next season to make the playoffs.

The B.C. Hockey League has announced some significant changes regarding the schedule, playoffs and rosters that go into effect for the 2011-12 season — including the elimination of an entire playoff round that will limit the number of qualifiers for post-season play from the Coastal and Interior Conferences to four teams each.

Caps’ co-coach and general manager Jim Ingram has reservations about the changes to the playoff format, based on his experiences with the Trail Smoke Eaters the last four seasons.

“Again, you only want the best teams in the playoffs,’’ he said.

“I look at it selfishly. I would not have made the playoffs once in Trail. We generated some good revenue (from playoffs).

“I understand what they’re trying to do. I can appreciate it. Any time you take an opportunity away from a group of kids to showcase themselves in the playoffs, I don’t know how that can be a good thing.’’

The situation is especially clear-cut in the Interior Conference where Vernon, Penticton, Salmon Arm and Westside are the dominant teams. Rarely have Trail, Merritt, Quesnel or Prince George finished ahead of the big four.

The Caps have placed seventh and eighth, respectively, the last two seasons and face a huge climb to get into the top four in the Coastal Conference for a playoff spot.

Part of the reason for the shortened playoff is a later start and finish to the BCHL regular season from Sept. 23 to March 11. Ingram agrees that time frame works better.

“Nobody really gets into hockey till the end of September,’’ he said. “Once you get into school, you’ve got the initial rush and get the kids all set.’’

The change brings the BCHL closer to the Western Hockey League’s calendar.

In other developments, the league will be going back to a half interlock between the Coastal and Interior Conferences. The Caps, for example, will only play four away games within the Interior Conference and host the other four teams once each.

Each team must now carry at least one 16- and one 17-year-old player.

“I’m fine with that,’’ said Ingram. “I like having 16s that can come in and play with you. The 17s, you should always have some 17s.’’

Rosters are also being reduced to 21 players from 23.

“I don’t know how much I like that 21-man roster,’’ said Ingram.

He noted it fails to take into account how teams struggle with injuries.

“There were a lot of times I’d have two, three or four (affiliate players) in the lineup. Sometimes I’d be short players with APs in the lineup.’’

Ingram isn’t sure the changes adequately prepare players for National Collegiate Athletic Association schools.

“I think they’re big changes,’’ he said. “It’s generated some pretty high emotions. I think what you’ll see next year is there’ll be more tinkering to it.’’

From Coquitlam Now:

BCHL shrinks playoffs, rosters
By Dan Olson, Coquitlam NOW May 13, 2011

Call it a massive shift, or some major tinkering, but the B.C. Hockey League board of governors did some heavy renovations this week in preparation for the 2011-12 season.

For the Coquitlam Express, the changes will mean a seventh-place repeat is no longer in play.

The BCHL governors voted to reduce the number of teams that qualify for the playoffs, going from 14 to eight -- four per conference -- and shrinking playing rosters by two players to 21.

The league has also decided to begin the regular season in late September, two weeks later than last year, as well as increase the number of games played against conference rivals.

Express general manager and president Darcy Rota said of the 12 motions that were passed, he voted in support of 11 of them.

"All 12 motions put to the board of governors passed, which was a lot," said Rota. "The support was overwhelming in favour and in many cases it was as cost savings [motion]."

The lone motion that Rota didn't support was to cut the number of teams that advance to the postseason to just four per conference. Coquitlam, which finished seventh overall in the Coastal Conference last year with a 22-28-1-9 record, placed 15 points back of fourth place.

"From our standpoint that was a difficult decision -- going from seven in each conference to four was drastic, but it was democratically voted on and passed, so we accept it," he said.

Since no team starts out aiming for fourth place, the pressure is no greater on Coquitlam than it is on reigning conference champion Powell River -- at least on paper. By reducing roster sizes by two players per team, the theory is that those signed will receive more ice time and create more competition around the league.

The league is also requiring each team to card at least one 16 and one 17 year old to maintain the development aspect of the league.

Rota agreed that during a long season a spate of injuries could significantly test the smaller rosters, highlighting the importance of affiliate players. In October, clubs will participate in an affiliate "selection" -- not a draft -- to ensure each organization is well-stocked with players from around the province.

"No question, that comes into play," Rota said of the injury factor. "Teams need to have a real strong strategy of filling their affiliate lists, that's how we approached it last year."

At the minimum, it serves as an insurance policy for injuries, but also gives them an opportunity to showcase their organization to young talent. Players who are on affiliate cards at season's end become free agents.

Although the season will start later, Coquitlam has decided to still open its main training camp on Aug. 23. The extra time will allow coach Jon Calvano to evaluate a large camp, which will include numerous invitees from the club's prospects camp, held earlier this month.

From Victoria Times-Colonist:

Wholesale changes coming to BCHL
By Sharie Epp, Times Colonist May 13, 2011

The B.C. Hockey League has announced a sou'wester of changes set to sweep across the province's Junior A clubs this fall. A league committee has come up with new rules regarding everything from a later start to the season to the playoff format to the size of rosters, with an overall goal of cutting costs and improving player development.

"We're confident these ideas will be embraced by our member clubs as we continue to work through our strategic plan," BCHL commissioner John Grisdale said in a news release. "The BCHL looks forward to implementing these changes, and improving the product we put on the ice next season."

Fans will note the differences right off the bat, since the regular season will begin on Sept. 23, more than three weeks later than in the past, and end on March 11. Besides moving into the more traditional hockey time period, the change will give players, especially those from out of town, more time to get their schooling organized and adjust to billets and new surroundings.

"In my opinion, it's a great idea," said Victoria Grizzlies part-owner and business manager Reza Binab, who also likes having more games played after Christmas. "In January and February, people are getting into hockey."

The regular schedule, which has yet to be announced, will include more regional rivalries, back-to-back road games against the same team, and a half-interlocking schedule. All teams will play each other, but not necessarily visit each arena.

Above all, the season is bound to be more competitive, as just four teams from each of the Coastal and Interior conferences make the playoffs. The first round is being eliminated on a trial basis, and the results evaluated at the end of the season.

"I think it creates a better solution to playoff games," Binab said, referring to the previous format, which often became a survival of the fittest. "There was game after game after game, back-toback.

"It was something that needed to be done."

As well, roster size is being reduced from 23 to 21 players, and each team must carry one 16-and one 17-year-old. The idea is to see younger players get more ice time. And with more injury relief likely needed, teams will be able to select a protected list of affiliate players in October, although the rights expire at the end of the season.

Binab said the team governors are expected to approve the new initiatives when the league meets at the beginning of June.

"I think the changes are going to be great for everybody."

From Penticton Western News:

By Emanuel Sequeira - Penticton Western News
Published: May 12, 2011 4:00 PM

Change is coming to the BCHL in 2011-12.

Aiming to improve costs and players development for teams, the league has decided to start its season later (Sept. 23) and reduce playoff teams and rosters.

During that schedule, teams in opposite conferences will only face each other once. One round of playoffs has been eliminated leaving three and rosters are being trimmed from 23 to 21 with one spot mandatory for 16 and 17-year-old players.

Andy Oakes, who is on the BCHL executive and strategic planning committee, feels these changes will benefit clubs.

“In the state we are in right now, junior A franchises are becoming more and more expensive to operate but in turn we’re not being able to increase revenue based on ticket prices and corporate sponsorship packages based on the economy,” said Oakes.

Having only four teams each in the Interior and Coastal Conferences earning playoff berths, Oakes said the competition is going to be more competitive placing an emphasis on solid starts.

“It should make the regular season more exciting for fans for sure based on the fact that you have really good teams that are making the playoffs,” he said. “Everybody is going to be fighting hard to do that.

“You look at teams making the playoffs who were under .500, is that what you want?” he asked. “You have an under .500 team playing against a team that might have been .700 in the first round. First round last year, you saw the other series … the top seeds won pretty handily.” Reducing playoff teams and changing the schedule to start later are two things Penticton Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson likes. He has issue though with the reduced roster. “I really didn’t like going to the 21-man roster,” said Harbinson. “Being told at this time of year was real strange. They waited until now to inform us that this was going to happen. You’re making decision over the last few months with your potential roster.” Harbinson added that the new roster limit alienates a player being sat as opposed to two or three guys. “That’s tough and it takes away a coaching tool,” he said. “Sometimes you need to make somebody a healthy scratch to get a message across.” When it came to voting not everything had a unanimous win, which included how many clubs were in favour of reducing playoff teams. Ten of 16 clubs voted in favour. Oakes likes having mandatory spots for 16- and 17-year-olds stating that kids in those spots will be “fairly dynamic young players” who could be considered for the NHL Draft. The Vees have always had players in that age bracket on the rosters, but when asked if there are enough kids ready to play Harbinson said he doesn’t know. “That’s a great question,” said Harbinson. “I’d like to think that there’s that many, the first thing is they have to be B.C. kids. That’s yet to be seen.” Hockey Canada rules stipulate that players from outside of B.C. can only play in the province if they are at least 18. Harbinson said the main concern is that players aged 16 better be able to play. In October, teams will select 15-year-old affiliate players to introduce into the league but will not hold onto their rights at seasons end.

From Alberni Valley News:

BC Hockey League gives playoffs, schedule a facelift

By Susan Quinn - Alberni Valley News
Published: May 11, 2011 4:00 PM

The B.C. Hockey League has made some rule changes designed to save teams money and advance the development of younger players. The changes were announced following a recent meeting of the BCHL board of governors, and now teams are having to accommodate them.

"They're making it more cost-efficient" to travel, Alberni Valley Bulldogs' head coach Paul Esdale said.

"The schedule hasn't come out yet and it won't come out for another month or two. Anytime you can go to Powell River and not get stuck there (because of the ferry), but play a couple of games, that makes sense."

The BCHL season is going to start and end later, so it's more in line with other hockey leagues, BCHL communications director Brent Mutis stated in a press release. Regular season games will start Sept. 23 and end March 11. Teams can either hold their training camps in August as usual or push it back to September.

Esdale said he has to absorb the league changes and hasn't had a chance to make a decision about training camp. "It will only be a week's difference for us either way," he said.

The league will also go back to a half-interlock schedule that will see each team play every other team, but not necessarily visit all buildings. Regional rivalry games will be given more attention.

"I think they've done a good job," Esdale said of the league promoting regional rivalries. "For us, there's four teams on the Island. I find our travel not to be too bad at all.

"We play a lot of games on the Island. For us I don't think it's a huge difference."

The BCHL office will produce the league schedule this year, something that was done about three years ago. The schedule was traditionally assembled during the annual general meeting, with all 16 team governors at the table, Mutis said in an interview.

Teams will have to reduce their rosters to 21 players from 23, which the league hopes will promote player development. "You won't have three guys sitting out of the lineup," Esdale said. "That will be good. Everyone will get to play and play a lot. If you get into injury trouble you're going to have to have a good affiliate player list."

Teams will also be required to carry at least one 16-year-old and one 17-year-old player; and with the reduced roster size, it guarantees younger players will get some ice time.

"It's all about player development," Esdale said. "This upcoming year we will have a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old in the lineup; that's the rules now.

"I guess it's exciting for the younger guys in the league."

The league will hold an October selection of affiliate players; not a "draft" per se, but an opportunity for teams to introduce 15-year-olds to the BCHL and keep them on affiliate rosters for the season. At the end of the year their rights will have to be released by the teams.

The playoff format is also changing. Only eight teams will qualify for the playoffs: four from each conference. This will accommodate the conclusion of the season being later and ensure a team is available for the Doyle Cup.

Last year, seven of eight teams in each conference made it into the playoffs. The Bulldogs finished sixth in the regular season.

The league is also dropping one round of the playoffs, reducing them to three rounds. Gone will be the traditional bye enjoyed by the teams that finished tops in their conference during the regular season.

"This is meant to promote competitiveness in opening rounds," Mutis stated.

This rule change will be reviewed after the end of next season.

"We're confident these ideas will be embraced by our member clubs as we continue to work through our strategic plan," league commissioner John Grisdale said in the press release.

And finally, from BC Hockey Now:

BCHL’S New Rules Receive Mixed Reactions From Around League: Vipers Coach Weighs-In

Friday, May 21, 2011 /

By Mark Janzen /

To say the BCHL’s new rule changes pertaining to rosters have ruffled a few feathers amongst the coaching ranks would be like saying that Vancouver Canucks fans have just a mild distaste for the Chicago Blackhawks.

When Vernon Vipers coach Mark Ferner learned that the maximum roster size for next year would be reduced from 23 to 21, a number the league used to operate under, and each team would be forced to carry at least one 16-year-old and one 17-year-old at all times, he was perturbed to say the least.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Ferner said just days after leading the Vipers to the RBC Cup final. “If you want to have a 16-year-old, have a 16-year-old. If you want to have a 17-year-old, have a 17-year-old. If you want to have a 21-man roster because you think you can save money, we’re not telling you that you can’t. Go further, have an 18-man roster. I don’t care. But at least give us the opportunity to put the best team on the ice.

“It’s tough to make money in Junior hockey. I understand that. But if you want people to come out and you want to make money, you put a good product on the ice and they’ll keep coming. People don’t care how old the kids are. They want to see good hockey. And they’re not going to get the best product right now. I really, truly believe that.”

While the thinking for the 21-man roster is to save owners money, estimated at between $10,000 and $20,000 per player per year, the 16- and 17-year-old rule is an effort to make the league more developmental. But again, Ferner had serious qualms.

“These players [16-year-olds] have already been identified because the WHL drafts them at 15-years-old,” Ferner said. “So what happens when November rolls around and they get pulled up by a WHL team? Then we don’t have our 16-year-old, anymore.”

John Grisdale, the commissioner of the BCHL, argued the changes are in fact a step in the right direction both on and off the ice.

“We’re saying to teams we want to be a younger, development league,” Grisdale said. “The governors reduced the rosters to 21, which means there won’t be as many players sitting in the stands. The league wants to get young players into the league and develop them.

“It’s a business decision in that there won’t be as many players in the program and it’s a player development decision, allowing the players to play on teams [Junior B or Major Midget] where they can get ice time.

“We’re not forcing anyone to do anything. There are enough good 16-year-olds [17 played in the BCHL last year] that want to play in our league.”

Upset as Ferner may be, he will have to live with the BCHL’s board of governors decisions this year, but he believes the roster size changes will revert back within a year.

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