Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cents Forward Blaine Bokenfohr Commits to NAIT, Defenceman JP Witkop Commits to Manhattanville College, Assistant Coach/GM Joe Martin's Thoughts on Coming to Merritt::

Great news for the Cents as now all three graduating players from the 2010-11 edition of the team have committed to post-secondary education.

Here's from the Centennials website:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Merritt, BC – May 31, 2011

The Merritt Centennials are pleased to announce the commitment of 21 year old forward Blaine Bokenfohr to the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton for September 2011.

“When we acquired Blaine in November of last year, he was only our second 20 year old player at the time. He was an exceptional leader for us and was willing to play in any role asked of him.” said Cents Head Coach and GM Luke Pierce.

“Blaine has a level of commitment unmatched by many and he quickly became a heart-and-soul guy within our locker room. We think he’ll translate that dedication to his schooling and hockey career in the ACAC.” continued Pierce.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Merritt, BC - May 31, 2011

The Merritt Centennials are pleased to announce the commitment of 21 year old defenceman Jon-Paul Witkop to Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York for September 2011.

“After acquiring Jon-Paul at the trade deadline, he came in and provided maturity to a young club on a defensive pairing with our captain Steve Tresierra.” said Cents head coach and general manager Luke Pierce. “I think he has the ability to have a great amount of success at the NCAA Div. III level and we wish him all the best in his hockey and schooling future.”

Witkop played 16 games for the Cents and posted a goal and three assists in that span to go along with 22 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder is headed back home for school as he hails from Fairport, New York.

I chatted with Cents new assistant coach and assistant GM Joe Martin on yesterday's morning show. Here's the interview:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cents Avoid Conflict with Game Three of Stanley Cup Final and Reschedule Annual General Meeting

A great decision by the Cents in my mind! GO CANUCKS GO!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Merritt, BC - May 30, 2011

The Merritt Centennials of the BC Hockey League would like to announce that their Annual General Meeting has been rescheduled to avoid conflict with Game Three of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins.

The AGM, which was originally scheduled for Monday, June 6th, is now scheduled for Tuesday, June 7, 2011. The meeting will start at 6:30 pm in the Mezzanine at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

"With the entire province gripped in Canucks fever, we felt that it would be in our best interest to reschedule the AGM," said Cents President and Chairman of the Board Jerry Canuel. "We're all Canucks fans too and didn't want Game Three of the Stanley Cup Final to distract from what is our most important meeting of the year."

The evening will consist of reports on team finances for the 2010-11 fiscal year, marketing, season tickets, billeting, booster club, hockey operations and the election of the 2011-12 Board of Directors. Nominations for the Board of Directors will be permitted from the floor during the meeting.

-30-

For further information, please contact President and Chairman of the Board Jerry Canuel at 250-378-9266 or jerrycanuel@apgroup.ca

The Merritt Centennials, proudly celebrating 39 years as the BCHL's longest continuously run franchise, are a non-profit, community owned Junior 'A' Hockey Club run by a dedicated team of investors, directors, and volunteers.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cents Hire Joe Martin as Assistant Coach/GM, Luke Pierce on the Hiring and Steve Tresierra's Commitment to Queen's University, Cents Forward Max Vallis Drafted to NAHL:


The Centennials made it official today. Joe Martin is joining the team as assistant coach and assistant GM from the Creston Valley Thundercats of the KIJHL. He replaces Chad DeLeeuw, whose contract wasn't renewed at the end of the season.

Here's the official release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Merritt, BC – May 27, 2011

The Merritt Centennials of the BC Hockey League are pleased to announce the hiring of Joe Martin as Assistant Coach and Assistant GM for the next two seasons.

"Joe is exactly what we were looking for in an assistant coach," said Cents Head Coach & GM Luke Pierce. "His familiarity with junior hockey in BC, recruiting of players, and hockey knowledge will be an instant impact within the Merritt Centennials culture."

Martin has been the Head Coach and GM of the KIJHL’s Creston Valley Thundercats for the past four years and guided the team to one regular season division title, two first round playoff series wins, moved ten players onto college, ten players onto junior ‘A’ hockey and produced a regular season record of 112-68-3-2. He was also named Eddie Mountain Division Coach of the Year for 2010-11.

“I'm very happy to be joining the Centennials in their 39th year of operation in the BCHL. The last few years I've been watching the team’s progress under Luke Pierce and now to join the organization and work with Luke is an honour,” said Martin. “The Cents have a great reputation in junior hockey and after meeting some of the people I can see why. I look forward to making the move to Merritt permanently and working with the community on building a championship team."

For further information, please contact Cents head coach and GM Luke Pierce at 250-378-3607.

The Merritt Centennials, proudly celebrating 39 seasons as the BCHL's longest continuously run franchise, are a non-profit, community owned Junior 'A' Hockey Club run by a dedicated team of investors, directors, and volunteers.

I talked with Luke this morning about the hiring:



Yesterday I talked to Luke about the commitment of Steve Tresierra to Queen's University. I didn't get a chance to post it then, so here it is:




Cents forward Max Vallis was drafted by New Mexico in the 3rd round, 60th overall in the North American Hockey League draft on Wednesday.

It's the second time this off-season that Vallis has been claimed by a team in a US Junior 'A' league after he was drafted earlier this month by the USHL's Omaha Lancers. Word is that Vallis is still planning to return to Merritt in 2011-12. I would expect that he is poised to significantly improve on his 22 goals this past season.

Cents Looking for an Athletic Trainer/Equipment Manager

The staff changes continue for the Merritt Centennials as Jason Kitzan won't be back for his third season as the club's Athletic Trainer & Equipment Manager.

Here's from MerrittCentennials.com:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Merritt, BC - May 26, 2011

The Merritt Centennials have an immediate opening for an Athletic Therapist/Equipment Manager. The salary is minimum $2000 per month (negotiable) and the contract length is negotiable.

This posting expires on July 1, 2011. The Centennials appreciate all interest in the position, but only applicants considered for an interview will be contacted.

Applications are accepted by fax to (250) 378-3609, email to luke@merrittcentennials.com, or mail to Merritt Centennials, Human Resources, P.O. Box 1730, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8, (Attn: Luke Pierce)

Job Description

Role and Responsibilities

The Athletic Therapist/Equipment Manager is a key part of the success of the Merritt Centennials Hockey Club, contributing to the health and readiness of the players and working with the coaching staff to ensure optimal performance.

Coordinate and implement all medical, rehabilitation and strength and conditioning activities
Responsible for equipment inventory tracking, maintenance and distribution
Responsible for injury prevention and assessment

Qualifications and Education Requirements

Preferred experience with hockey teams or other team related sports. Applicants must have the following qualifications:

Certified Athletic Therapist
Bachelor's Degree or Diploma: Kinesiology or related program preferred

The following credentials are preferred but not essential:

ATC
NSCA CSCS certification
Hockey Canada 'Speak Out' and 'Safety' Programs

Preferred Skills

Working knowledge of modality unit preferred. Applicants must be committed to working in team environment and proven ability to handle multiple tasks and responsibilities.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lots of BIG Cents News:

It's been a crazy week in the world of the Centennials.


First, great news for captain Steve Tresierra with his commitment to Queen's University. I'll have reaction from Head Coach & GM Luke Pierce on Steve's commitment sometime tomorrow. I hope to reaction from Steve himself soon too. Here's from the Cents website:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Merritt, BC - May 25, 2011

The Merritt Centennials are pleased to announce defenceman and captain Steve Tresierra has accepted an offer to play for the Queen's University Golden Gaels starting in the 2011-12 season.

Tresierra played all 60 regular season games in each of the past two seasons for the Cents and established a new personal best this year with nine goals on the campaign. He scored 27 points for the second year in a row and finished his BCHL career with 21 goals and 64 assists in 206 games.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Golden, BC, product played four seasons in the league after beginning his career with the Vernon Vipers. He came to Merritt midway through the 2008-09 campaign. He captained the club to consecutive playoff appearances the last two years as the Centennials improved their point totals each year he was in Merritt.

"I think he'll carry the same thing over to Queen's as he did for us," said Cents Head Coach & GM Luke Pierce. "He'll be a leader and the type of player and person you can build a program around."

"He's everything you want for a small-town hockey club because he gets involved in the community, just like he did here in Merritt, and others follow him."

Tresierra becomes the second straight Centennials captain to go to Queen's as Jordan Soquila went to the Kingston, Ont. campus last season.


It hasn't yet been confirmed by Luke Pierce to me, but the Creston Valley Thundercats are reporting that Joe Martin has joined the Centennials on a two-year contract as Assistant Coach/GM.

I heard rumblings about the status of last season's Assistant Coach Chad DeLeeuw, but I can confirm that he won't be back behind the Cents bench in 2011-12.

I should have more on this breaking story in the next day or so.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cents Announce "Share The Cents" Season Ticket Promotion:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Merritt, BC - May 24, 2011

The Merritt Centennials are pleased to announce a new program for season ticket holders to get extra benefits by referring others to enjoy the fast-paced, hard-hitting BCHL action that is Cents hockey.

Called the Share The Cents Promotion, it provides an incentive for current season ticket holders to pass on the names of friends, relatives and others they know who they believe would enjoy exciting junior 'A' hockey with the Centennials.

To earn a referral reward, current or new season ticket holders fill out a form with their name as "promoter" and give it to the individual they encouraged to purchase tickets. That individual then turns in the form when they purchase their 2011-12 season tickets and the "promoter" receives a $50 credit towards their own season ticket!

For more information on the Share The Cents Promotion, please contact Cents Season Ticket Coordinator Karen Webster at 378-2345 or Cents Marketing Manager Rachael Sanders at 378-3604.

The form is also available for download by visiting MerrittCentennials.com

Conditions:

* Credit may not exceed the cost of your ticket
* Credit may not be carried forward to another season
* Credit is non transferable and holds no cash value
* If you’ve already purchased your 2011-12 season ticket, your credit may be applied towards next season.
* Does not apply to MMHA season tickets
* Does not apply to corporate tickets

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Harvey Smyl to Coach Chilliwack BCHL Team; Moray Keith Promises Cheaper, Offensive Hockey:


By Tyler Olsen, Chilliwack Times May 24, 2011

The British Columbia Hockey League is back in Chilliwack.

The BCHL board of governors has unanimously approved the sale of the Quesnel Millionaires and the franchise's relocation to Chilliwack.

The new ownership group includes Chiefs Development Group principals Moray Keith and Jim Bond, along with Harvey Smyl, who will serve as the team's coach and general manager.

"We're thrilled," Keith told the Times. "We've always been big fans of the BCHL. We wanted to have hockey in Chilliwack. We think the BCHL is a wonderful alternative. It's respectful hockey."

With the Langley Chiefs having been renamed the Rivermen, the franchise will likely be called the Chiefs. "Chiefs hockey represented great hockey in Chilliwack and the fan support we had behind the Chiefs was just wonderful," he said. "Chiefs hockey was a fun time for Chilliwack. With Harvey it's always been winning hockey and it's also growing young men and . . . I think that's something the community bought into big time with the old Chiefs teams."

But Keith told the Times that, while he favours the old name, the franchise plans to ask fans for their two cents.

"We're going to take a little look at that over the next week or two," said Keith.

Jersey and logo decisions will also involve community input, Keith promised, but he stressed that any Chiefs logo must be respectful.

"I think we need to do something that's very respectful when we're doing the Chiefs," he said. "I think we've had some great jerseys in the past and we've also had some that were a little bit comical, and I think we'll stay away from those and head to just a real classy jersey."

As for a mascot, Keith doesn't rule out the return of an old standby.

"I always thought the name Chief Wannawin is pretty cool," he said, when asked specifically about the former Chiefs standard-bearer.

CDG owns and operates Prospera Centre and owned a minority share of the now-departed Chilliwack Bruins of the Western Hockey League.

Keith doesn't think it will be difficult to attract fans to watch a BCHL team in an arena which, with a seating capacity of around 5,000, will be one of the largest buildings in the league.

"What we're finding is tremendous support from the folks in the community who are anxious to have the BCHL back in town."

He pointed out that the Chiefs averaged more than 3,000 fans their first year in Prospera Centre, before the team left for Langley.

"We think we've got an opportunity to drive that," he told the Times. "Number one, we've got a more affordable ticket. We're going to be making it very approachable and very easy for families to attend. We think that hockey in Chilliwack should be a family outing. It should be something you want to take your kids to and there will be zero-tolerance for misbehaviour in the stands."

He said there are no plans to tarp over sections of seats. The franchise also plans to replace the videoboard that departed with the Bruins.

"We believe we have to step it up a bit," said Keith. "There's no doubt that the WHL was a higher-profile league and we need to make sure we're doing the same thing for the BCHL and we will."

He said the lower costs associated with operating a BCHL team will make it easier for the franchise to afford to bring a top-notch experience to fans.

"Our intention is to fill the building. There's no ifs ands or buts."

Keith clearly believes that Smyl—who coached the Langley Chiefs last year but who still lives in Chilliwack—will be a vital part of the on- and off-ice success of the team.

The Millionaires won just 13 games last year and were swiftly dispatched in four games in the playoffs. With the BCHL ushering in a new playoff format that will see only four teams from each division qualify for the post-season, Chilliwack will be in tough. But Keith has confidence in Smyl's ability to work wonders with young players and promote an entertaining style of play.

"Harvey seems to lose five or six games at the start of the year, by Christmas time he's playing .500 hockey, and by the time he hits the end of the year, he's in the second round of the playoffs," said Keith. "What fans, I believe, want is guys who go out every shift and give it everything they've got and we can promise we're going to have exciting offensive hockey.

"Yeah, it'll take a few minutes to get a team sorted around but Harvey's used to rebuilding teams because we've always incentivized Harvey based on sending . . . young men [to college] rather than holding them from 16 to 20 on the team."

The Western Hockey League had previously expressed an interest in returning to Chilliwack, but Keith said he and his partners are fully committed to the BCHL.

"Judging by the way we were treated by the WHL, we're not very anxious to be involved with those folks again," he said.

Keith says the franchise has put in place a 10-year lease for the Prospera Centre.

He also emphasized the need for community involvement in the team and hopes to recruit an army of volunteer ushers, ticket-takers, billeters and security personnel.

"We're going to look for a lot of people to be involved," said Keith. "We believe that rather than commercializing some of those positions, we should be trying to look for people who want to be involved in the community and involve some of the clubs and also some of the students."

He said the team plans to begin hiring within two weeks, with a business manager and marketer at the top of the list.

Chilliwack will play in the BCHL's Interior Conference next year. Realignment will take place the following, according to the league.

BC Hockey must still rubber-stamp the move, but that approval is expected at a conference call scheduled for June 7. The new Chilliwack owners, meanwhile, are planning a summer of announcements tied to the new team and are begging for input from local hockey fans and residents.

"We firmly believe the team belongs to the community," said Keith. "We get to be caretakers of the team."

New Look BCHL in 2011-12:

Not only are there a ton of rule, roster and playoff changes (which I still haven't gotten around to analyzing on the blog), but now we know for sure that the Interior Conference will look much different in 2011-12 than it did in 2010-11.

For the first time since the 1995-96 season, there won't be any games involving the Quesnel Millionares as the sale and relocation of that franchise to Chilliwack has been approved by the BCHL's Board of Governors. And for the first time since the 2005-06 season, a team from Chilliwack will skate in the BCHL. The Chiefs join the Interior Conference, where they played for their first four seasons of existence from 1990-94.

So, when the league hammers out the schedule next month, here's what they need to consider for alignment.

Coastal Conference
Alberni Valley Bulldogs
Coquitlam Express
Cowichan Valley Capitals
Langley Rivermen
Nanaimo Clippers
Powell River Kings
Surrey Eagles
Victoria Grizzlies

Interior Conference
Chilliwack Chiefs
Merritt Centennials
Penticton Vees
Prince George Spruce Kings
Salmon Arm Silverbacks
Vernon Vipers
Trail Smoke Eaters
Westside Warriors

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.

Former Cents Defenceman Derek Hills to Attend Bowling Green:


Former Cents defenceman Derek Hills, who joined the Amarillo Bulls of the NAHL last off-season, has committed to Bowling Green University.

Here's the release from the Bulls website:

AMARILLO, TX – The Amarillo Bulls, proud members of the North American Hockey League, announced today (Thursday) that Captain Derek Hills has committed to Bowling Green State University (CCHA Hockey) for the 2011-20112 season.

“It is a great achievement for Derek, a player who entrusted us to come down from the British Columbia Hockey League to Amarillo, Texas. He was able to lead a first-year program to the Robertson Cup, and then at the end of his eligibility to go to a great school like Bowling Green in the CCHA,” said Bulls Head Coach Dennis Williams, who himself is a BGSU alumni both as a player and a coach.

“It is a great testament to the type of player and character he has. I think Bowling Green is not only getting a fantastic hockey player, more importantly a terrific person who competes hard, and who buys into what you are trying to do. He is a great leader on the ice, in the locker room and in the community. He will be a great addition to the Falcon family.”

Hills, a native of Campbell River, British Columbia, had 7 goals and 25 assists for 32 points in 57 games for the Bulls. He was a +15 on the ice and had 12 power play assists. In the NAHL post season, Hills led all defenseman with 2 goals and 9 assists for 11 points. Hills was selected to the all South Division team and was named to the Robertson Cup All-Tournament Team.

“I am pretty excited that I committed,” Hills said from his home in Canada. “It was a great campus when I went down there, and it is going to be a good fit for me. Coach (Chris) Bergeron and I mesh very well.

“A big part of me committing was having an opportunity to play in one of the top divisions in NCAA hockey. My plan is not just to play at BGSU but to move into the top four of the d-core and work from there.”

Williams said it is a nice feeling to have one of his own players commit to his alma mater of BGSU.

“Obviously Bowling Green is near and dear to me and to have a player like Derek’s stature and ability bringing what he can bring, Bowling Green and Chris Bergeron is getting a great hockey player and he will do well there,” Williams added. “Not only do I have an interest in Bowling Green as an alumni, but more interest with one of my former players being able to play there.”

Friday, May 20, 2011

BCHL Governors Voting on Return to Chilliwack:

By Tyler Olsen, Chilliwack Times

May 20, 2011

An announcement on the return of the British Columbia Hockey League to Chilliwack could take place this week and possibly even Tuesday, according to BCHL president John Grisdale.

Chiefs Development Group (CDG) principals Moray Keith and Jim Bond met Thursday morning with Vernon Vipers owner Duncan Wray and Coquitlam Express owner Darcy Rota to hammer out a deal that would see the Quesnel Millionaires play in the CDG-owned Prospera Centre next year.

League owners are now voting yes or no to allow the Millionaires to move to Chilliwack under conditions agreed to last Thursday.

Grisdale said on Friday that owners have two weeks to respond with their votes, but that the league hopes that the process will be expedited and a result known by Tuesday.

""Tuesday we should have everything counted and done and be able to officially make an announcement," said Grisdale.

The main sticking point between the two sides has been an agreement on a transfer fee that CDG would pay to the other owners to make up the difference between the value of the club in Quesnel compared to one in Chilliwack.

"Chiefs Development Group have been a partner in the league below. They're well known and tremendous partners," said Grisdale. "Those aren't the issues. It's the valuation of the franchise, what it's worth, longevity of the lease, all that kind of stuff."

If the owners vote no, Grisdale said the parties could go back to the negotiating table, but that time is of the essence.

"It's just two parties coming to an agreement [on the valuation] and I would suspect that we will come to a satisfactory solution one way or another," he said.

Grisdale can't say what vote has been recommended by the league's franchise committee but he added "I think you could guess based on the fact they've gone to the governors for a vote."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Quesnel Relocation to Chilliwack Far From A Sure Thing:

Meeting tomorrow could determine future of hockey in Chilliwack

By Tyler Olsen, Chilliwack Times

May 18, 2011

The group that hopes to bring the British Columbia Hockey League back to Prospera Centre is still negotiating with the league on the pending move of the Quesnel Millionaires.

The Chiefs Development Group, which owns Prospera Centre, has agreed to buy the struggling Millionaires from their owners. But moving the club is dependent on gaining league approval, something that has still not been resolved.

The BCHL's franchise committee met Monday to discuss the issue.

CDG consultant Glen Ringdal said the committee has "some very interesting ideas" about what the league would get out of the move.

Asked whether that means guarantees, Ringdal said, "No, as you can expect, everything comes down to money. So we don't know which way they're going to land at this point. You never know. It could be good, it could be bad."

Duncan Wray, who owns the Vernon Vipers and chairs the league's franchise committee, wouldn't comment on what the league hopes to get from a move. But he did tell the Times that he planned to meet with CDG principals Moray Keith and Jim Bond Thursday morning to try to come to an agreement.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cents Forward Max Vallis Drafted by USHL's Omaha Lancers:


Cents forward Max Vallis was drafted yesterday by the USHL's Omaha Lancers. Vallis went in the fifth round, 221st overall after posting 22 goals in 59 games with the Centennials last season.

Despite being chosen, all indications are that Vallis will be back in Merritt for 2011-12. There are already a number of NCAA schools looking at him for the 2012-13 season and I would think that after becoming familiar with the BCHL last season, Vallis should be set for a major jump in his offensive production this year.

Before Jakob Reichert got injured on November 21st, there was some major chemistry developing between Vallis, Reichert and Chad Brears as a potent second line for the Cents. In fact, prior to the injury, Vallis, Reichert and Brears combined for 23 points in seven games, which shows what potential the line has.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cents Head Coach & GM Luke Pierce Shares His Thoughts on BCHL Rule Changes:

I had the chance to run down all the new BCHL rules for 2011-12 with Centennials Head Coach and GM Luke Pierce the day they were announced. Sorry it's a little late getting it posted...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

BCHL Announces Major Changes to Playoffs, Roster Size and Schedule for 2011-12:

I'm still trying to digest the changes, but the BCHL is out with BIG news today:

The British Columbia Hockey League has announced several significant changes with regards to its schedule, playoffs and team roster rules that are aimed at improving cost efficiency and player development for member clubs.

The changes come about as a result of a recent meeting of the BCHL board of governors.

With respect to playoffs, the following changes are being made:

- There will be eight teams that qualify for playoffs, four from each conference. This will accommodate the conclusion of the season being later and ensure a team is available when the Doyle Cup begins.

- There will be just three rounds of playoffs as one round is being eliminated. This is meant to promote competitiveness in opening rounds though this change is on a trial basis and will be reviewed after the end of next season.

With respect to the schedule, the following changes are being made so BCHL games are more accessible for fans and teams can trim travel costs:

- The 2011-12 season will begin later. Games will commence Sept. 23 and will conclude March 11 to coincide with the more traditional hockey season. Teams will be given an option to hold training camp starting in August as usual or push it back to September.

- The league will be going 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.

- The BCHL office will be producing the schedule for the coming season. This will allow weekend dates to be maximized and may see occasional earlier start times on Saturdays to promote attendance by families. It will also ensure reduced travel for clubs with double-headers (i.e. playing the same opponent in their building Friday and Saturday) being incorporated.

With respect to team rosters, the following changes will be implemented for the coming season:

- Roster will be reduced to 21 players from 23 as in past years. This will promote player development and ensure more players dress for more games.

- Each team must carry at least one 16-year-old and one 17-year-old player. This is an effort to develop homegrown B.C. players as with the reduced roster size, these younger players are guaranteed to dress for games.

- An October selection of affiliate players will be held. It is not a true draft and is meant to simply introduce 15-year-old players to the BCHL and keep them on affiliate rosters for the season. At the conclusion of the season, teams will not keep rights to these players.

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

Rachael Sanders Hired as New Cents Marketing Manager:


Longtime Merritt resident Rachael Sanders has been hired by the Centennials as their new Marketing Manager. She was an assistant to last year's Manager Maddison Canuel, who resigned at the end of the 2010-11 season after two years in the position.

Here's the release from the Cents website:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Merritt, BC - May 9, 2011

The Merritt Centennials of the BC Hockey League are pleased to announce the hiring of Rachael Sanders as Marketing Manager for the 2011-12 season.
Rachael spent the 2010-11 season working in the Cents Marketing Office and at the games as Assistant Marketing Manager.

"I'm very excited to move ahead and take on more responsibilities with the Marketing Manager position," said Sanders. "I grew up in Merritt, understand community pride and know what it means to our city to have a BCHL franchise as part of it."

"Sponsorship and community support is integral to the operation of the Centennials," Sanders added. "I look forward to working to build partnerships which are beneficial to both the team and local businesses."

For further information, please contact Cents Marketing Manager Rachael Sanders at 250-378-3604 or 250-315-7224. The Centennials Marketing Office, located in the City Hall Building on Voght Street, is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.

The Merritt Centennials, proudly celebrating 39 years as the BCHL's longest continuously run franchise, are a non-profit, community owned Junior 'A' Hockey Club run by a dedicated team of investors, directors, and volunteers.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mills Officially Done, Will Either Play in Chilliwack or not at all in 2011-12:

For the first time, we're hearing something official today (other than in the media) from the Quesnel Millionaires regarding their financial situation.

Here's the release from the Mills website:

The Quesnel Millionaires would like to announce that they have received a written offer from Chilliwack to purchase their franchise and relocate to Chilliwack. Acceptance of this offer is subject to approval by the British Columbia Hockey League Governors. If this offer is not accepted by the League, the Millionaires will voluntarily withdraw from the British Columbia Hockey League.

The move to Chilliwack will be very positive for our players. They will have the opportunity to play in a beautiful building with a first class organization.

The ownership group of the Quesnel Millionaires is very saddened to have to take this step. However, the severe financial losses the group has sustained over the last two years combined with the lack of a firm date for the new multicentre has made this decision necessary.

The Quesnel Millionaires would like to thank all their volunteers, the billet families, their corporate sponsors, fans and the media for their support. We would also like to thank all the people who have worked tirelessly to keep the Millionaires in Quesnel throughout the years as well as the City of Quesnel and their staff.

All paid purchases for the 2011-12 season will be refunded.

It's a sad state of affairs for everyone involved in the organization in Quesnel and you have to wonder how the situation reverberates through all the small markets in the BCHL.

Here in Merritt, people need to realize what has happened in the Cariboo in a market LARGER than ours and now they no longer have a BCHL team. It could happen in Merritt too, so there's no better time to get off your keister and buy a season ticket, billet a player or volunteer some time on game nights, with the Booster Club or as a Board Member.

This is not a fait accompli just yet, as BCHL Governors need to approve the purchase of the Millionaires by the group from Chilliwack for the move to be made. What is certain is that either the Quesnel Millionaires franchise is playing out of Prospera Centre as the Chilliwack Chiefs in 2011-12 or its not playing at all.

So, I can take an educated guess as to how the BCHL will look in 2011-12 as it refers to the Conferences.

Scenario #1 (BCHL Governors vote down sale of the Mills, franchise withdraws from the league and folds):

Coastal Conference
Alberni Valley
Coquitlam
Cowichan Valley
Langley
Nanaimo
Powell River
Surrey
Victoria

Interior Conference
Merritt
Penticton
Prince George
Salmon Arm
Vernon
Trail
Westside

Scenario #2 (BCHL Governors rubber stamp sale of the Mills, franchise moves to Chilliwack and joins the Interior Conference - where the Chiefs played previously from 1990-94):

Coastal Conference
Alberni Valley
Coquitlam
Cowichan Valley
Langley
Nanaimo
Powell River
Surrey
Victoria

Interior Conference
Chilliwack
Merritt
Penticton
Prince George
Salmon Arm
Vernon
Trail
Westside

Scenario #3 (BCHL Governors rubber stamp sale of the Mills, franchise moves to Chilliwack and joins the Coastal Conference - where the Chiefs played previously from 1994-2006):

Coastal Conference
Alberni Valley
Chilliwack
Coquitlam
Cowichan Valley
Langley
Nanaimo
Powell River
Surrey
Victoria

Interior Conference
Merritt
Penticton
Prince George
Salmon Arm
Vernon
Trail
Westside

Quesnel Owners Accept Chilliwack Offer for BCHL's Millionaires:

Quesnel owners accept Chilliwack offer for BCHL's Millionaires

By Tyler Olsen, Chilliwack Times May 9, 2011

The owners of the Quesnel Millionaires have accepted an offer from the Chiefs Development Group to buy the British Columbia Hockey League team and move it to Chilliwack.

The owners voted unanimously Saturday to accept the offer, according to Millionaires president Bob Sales.

CDG consultant Glen Ringdal confirmed the groups had agreed to terms. When reached for comment Monday morning, Ringdal said he hadn't yet been notified that the 15 owners of the Millionaires had ratified the sale.

But he did say "we're working hard to make something good happen."

The move will now go to the BCHL's board of governors, which must approve the sale and relocation of the club. Last week the league's franchise committee agreed to allow the board to vote on the move, despite it being well past the normal December deadline for relocation.

Sales says it could be a couple weeks until a vote is taken.

While Saturday's meeting was an emotional one, Sales said the owners had no choice but to sell the club.

"It was really tough for us," said Sales. "We just found that we couldn't continue any longer. We were just losing so much money."

If the club isn't moved, it would likely have folded with the players scattered throughout the league.

Sales said the news will be well-received by the Millionaires' players.

"The kids will be going to an excellent situation," said Sales. "I think it would be a tremendous move for our kids."

© Copyright (c) Chilliwack Times

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Former Cents Forward Milan Gajic Becomes a Free Agent, Article on Former Cents AP Devin Gannon:


With the folding of the Victoria Salmon Kings, all of their players have become free agents, able to sign anywhere in the ECHL or elsewhere.

Former Centennials forward Milan Gajic is among five ex-BCHL players on the Salmon Kings. Others include Matt Butcher (Chilliwack, 2003-06), Rick Cleaver (Salmon Arm, 2003-04), Ryan MacMurchy (Vernon, 2000-01) and Matt Siddall (Victoria/Powell River/Langley, 2003-04).

Here's the release from the Salmon Kings website:

For Immediate Release

Friday, May 6, 2011

Victoria, BC – The Victoria Salmon Kings, proud affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks and Manitoba Moose, announced today that the organization has withdrawn from the League with the full approval of the ECHL Board of Governors

The withdrawal effectively ends the Salmon Kings organization. The players have been awarded free-agency, and given the opportunity to choose the future direction of their hockey careers.


Mark Hunter of the Kamloops Daily News had a chat with former Cents AP Devin Gannon about his trip to Russia with a group of fellow BCHL players last month.

Here's the article:

By MARK HUNTER
Daily News Sports Reporter

Devin Gannon's last road trip with some of his former Salmon Arm Silverbacks teammates turned out to be a beauty.

But this certainly wasn't any normal junior A hockey road trip.

Gannon, a 19-year-old Kamloops native, recently returned from Russia, where he and a group of B.C. Hockey League selects played in a tournament in Podolsk.

It was the trip of a lifetime for Gannon, and helped alleviate some of the pain he felt when the Silverbacks' season ended.

It was something of a double-whammy - within a week of the Silverbacks being eliminated from the playoffs, Gannon learned that he was on the move, traded to the Cowichan Valley Capitals as part of a January deal that sent forward Mike Hammond to Salmon Arm.

It likely felt like being kicked in the shins after being punched in the throat - the Silverbacks' defeat at the hands of the Vernon Vipers in the Interior Conference final would have been bad enough.

The Silverbacks won the first two games of the best-of-seven Interior final in Vernon, then lost four games in five days, three of them at home.

"It was devastating, the way we lost," Gannon says. "We had them, then let them take it. It stung."

During his exit meeting, Gannon was told he had been traded to Cowichan - the Capitals had written into the Hammond deal that Gannon and another player (in this case, Brandon Mistal, another Kamloops native) would be sent west after the season.

It was quite a shock, to say the least, but Salmon Arm head coach Tim Kehler asked Gannon to join the BCHL Selects for their Russian adventure.

Gannon didn't waste any time in agreeing to join Kehler, assistant coach Colin O'Hara and eight of his former Silverbacks 'mates on the trip.

"When I got traded, I was really shocked, especially since I had a lot of friends on the team," Gannon said. "I looked at (the trip to Russia) as one last road trip with them."

The trip started in the first week of April, when Gannon and his 19 teammates boarded a plane in Vancouver, flew to London, spent five hours checking out all the tourist stops, like Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, and then flew into Moscow.

They spent five days in Moscow, training at an Olympic facility with the likes of former NHLers Maxim Afinogenov and Evgeni Nabokov, both of whom play in Russia's Continental Hockey League (KHL).

The BCHL selects headed to Podolsk, about 50 minutes south of Moscow, for their four-team tournament.

Gannon and his teammates finished second in the round-robin event, losing 6-2 to a team of Russian under-23 selects (featuring a few KHL players), and beating the Russian national junior team 5-3 and the Slovakian national junior team 6-3.

Gannon, a former Kamloops Storm junior, thought he played well, picking up "a couple of goals and a couple of assists" during the trip, but really soaked up the atmosphere of playing in Russia.

"It was fun to be a part of - the fans loved us," Gannon says. "One fan hopped on the ice and went after one of our guys, but they loved us. We'd be sitting in the penalty box and they'd come over with signs, 'Canada's the best,' and 'We love Canada.'

"We'd go out to our bus and there would be 150 fans waiting for us, cheering."

Wait, wait, wait - a fan hopped on the ice?

"One of our guys kind of rubbed out their goalie," explains Gannon of Jayson Reardon, a Salmon Arm defenceman. "There was a scrum . . . and there was a student section . . . and some of them were pretty drunk.

"Someone hopped the glass and tried to jump (Reardon) . . . he was arrested. He got to watch the end of the game, then he was arrested."

(A video of the incident has been viewed more than 400,000 times on YouTube).

During their down time, the Canadians got to check out the sites in Moscow, including the Kremlin and Red Square.

But that will be the last of the down time for Gannon this offseason - he already has started working out with Greg Kozoris at Acceleration Fitness, and will continue to do so until the end of August, when he heads to Duncan to join his new team.

"I don't really need a break," he says. "We didn't really play a lot in Russia - it was almost like a vacation."

If Gannon learned anything in March, when his team was knocked out of the playoffs and he was traded to a faraway town from one located only an hour from home, it's that hockey can be a cruel, unsympathetic animal.

But he's not jaded - it's funny how a trip to Russia and a few games in a Team Canada jersey will do that.

"It was awesome . . . just a great honour to be able to represent Canada," he says. "It was probably the most fun I've ever had playing hockey."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

BCHL Green Lights Mills Move, Won't Operate in Quesnel Under Any Circumstances in 2011-12:

BCHL green-lights Mills move

By Eric Welsh - Chilliwack Progress

Moray Keith may want the BCHL, and the BCHL may want Chilliwack, but league commissioner John Grisdale said Wednesday there are many questions to be answered before that would become a reality.

Chief among them, how committed would Chilliwack be to the junior A circuit?

Having already jilted the BCHL once in favour of the Western Hockey League, would Chilliwack be coming back for the long haul, or only until the return of major junior?

“The league is building on a long-term basis, and we’re not sure what Chilliwack’s long-term interest in the BCHL would be,” Grisdale said. “If it’s a matter of them coming in while they continue to look for a better opportunity, then it might not be in our best interests. So that is definitely a question we would ask.”

And what would the right answer be?

If Moray Keith and business partner Jim Bond remain intent on securing another WHL team to eventually play in Prospera Centre, what does the BCHL push for to keep history from repeating itself?

“Obviously we would like them to say they’re committed to the BCHL for X number of years, recognizing that markets and interests change,” Grisdale said. “Obviously that facility (Prospera Centre) was built with something bigger in mind, and those questions need to be put in front of them.”

It’s obvious that the BCHL is interested in Chilliwack, once one of its most successful markets in the heyday of the Chiefs.

That much is evident in the league’s willingness to extend deadlines to accommodate the possibility of a Quesnel to Chilliwack relocate.

According to Grisdale, the normal deadline for teams to declare their intentions is Dec. 1.

“That includes the application process, business plan, ownership identification and so on,” Grisdale said. “In this instance, I had to go back to the board of governors and ask them if they were interested in hearing a relocation application at this point.”

The BCHL’s franchise committee had a conference call on Sunday, and another on Tuesday, at which point they green-lighted the potential sale and relocation of the Quesnel Millionaires.

“But as far as I know, there’s no offer to buy the Millionaires, so there’s nothing for the board of governors to look at yet,” Grisdale cautioned. “We don’t even know who the proposed owners would be at this moment. All of that has to get done between the current Quesnel ownership group and the potential buyers before it gets brought before the league.”

What Grisdale can say definitively is that BCHL hockey will not be played in Quesnel next season.

Millionaires president Bob Sales told the Quesnel Cariboo Observer that the team has lost $300,000 over the last two years, although the franchise remains in good standing with the city.

“We have cleared up the old ice debt with the city,” he said. “We promised to pay it off and we did and we are very proud of that. Right now, Chilliwack is a good option for the kids because it would keep them together as a team.”

With the calendar just flipped to May and hockey training camps starting in August, the clock is ticking.

A new team in Chilliwack would have to go into the community and try to repair countless bridges scorched by the outgoing Bruins.

Corporate sponsorships would need to be secured and season tickets would need to be sold.

“I think Chilliwack is a great hockey market, and I wasn’t privy to how successful the Bruins were or weren’t,” Grisdale said of the departed major junior team’s business woes. “Any ownership group will have a business plan that will be very comprehensive under our regulations, and they’ll have to show us how they feel they can generate fan and sponsorship interest.”

On the hockey side, a general manager would have to put together a team on the fly, missing out on prime recruiting time.

At this juncture, only a miracle worker might be able to ice a playoff-worthy team next season.

The 2010-11 Mills went 13-28-3-6 during the regular season, finishing seventh in the eight team Interior conference.

They were quickly dispatched from the playoffs in four games by the Penticton Vees.

The roster making the move to the Fraser Valley would need an awful lot of work.

On the plus side, 14 of the 16 BCHL teams make the playoffs every year and there is a man lurking in the wings who might be classified as a BCHL miracle worker.

Paging Harvey Smyl.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quesnel Millionaires Owners In Talks With Chilliwack Group:

By Percy Hebert - Quesnel Cariboo Observer

The future of the Mills in Quesnel is not bright.

The Mills haven't left town yet, but the vans are packed.

The owners of the Quesnel Millionaires are discussing selling the team to Chilliwack, Quesnel Millionaires president Bob Sales said.

"But all options are still open.

"We're still talking to two groups."

In Chilliwack, president of the Chiefs Development Group, Moray Keith said, "the recent announcement by the owners of the BCHL Quesnel Millionaires has prompted CDG to explore the possibilities of the team moving here. [Chilliwack]."

"We're talking with the people to the people from Quesnel to see if we can create a good fit."

The sale of the Millionaires would mark the end of 35 years of Millioniares history in Quesnel.

The decision to sell the team was not an easy one, Sales said because the current group of owners took over the team two years ago because they wanted to keep the Mills in Quesnel.

However, the expected support from the fans did not materialize and the owners were unwilling to put more money into the franchise.

"We have lost $300,000 over the last two years," Sales said.

Given the current financial situation of the Mills in Quesnel, a move to Chilliwack would be a win-win for all involved, not just the current owners.

"It's a good option for the kids," Sales said.

"It would keep them together as a team."

A decision, on either selling the team to the Chiefs Development Group or to a second, un-named group, must be made before the end of May, but Sales said the decision could be made as soon as the end of this week.

Moving the Mills franchise to Chilliwack would establish a natural rivalry, given the BCHL Langley Chiefs were formerly known as the Chilliwack Chiefs.

Despite the likely sale of the Millionaires, Sales did say the owners would ensure the franchise was in good standing with the league and the city of Quesnel.

"We have cleared up the franchise's old ice debt with the city," Sales said.

"We are very proud of that.

"We promised to pay it off and we did."

BCHL Governors To Vote On Millionaires' Move To Chilliwack:

By Tyler Olsen, Chilliwack Times May 4, 2011

The return of the Chilliwack Chiefs seems to be drawing closer as the BCHL board of governors has planned a vote on whether to allow the beleaguered Quesnel Millionaires to move this year.

Talks between the Chiefs Development Group, which operates the Prospera Centre, and the owners of the Millionaires are continuing, according to CDG consultant Glen Ringdal.

"We are exploring an option with the Millionaires," said CDG consultant Glen Ringdal. But he added that "there's been no offer submitted. There's no deal in place, but we are definitely talking to them."

Ringdal said: "We continue to explore every opportunity that we have. The rope is getting tighter around our necks and we've got to get something done."

The BCHL board of governors held a conference call Tuesday evening at which the Millionaires' relocation to Chilliwack was discussed.

Vernon Vipers owner Duncan Wray—who chairs the franchise committee—told the Times "I don't think [the relocation] is anywhere close to being done. At this point in the game, we as a board of governors is looking at the potential for doing so. But nothing is set in stone."

But Wray confirmed that governors discussed the relocation fee required to move the club. And he said his committee has put forward a motion "to explore the opportunity of moving for this coming season" despite it being well past the normal December deadline. No vote has yet been taken.

In a press release, CDG part-owner Moray Keith said it would take up to two weeks to complete a deal and meet the requirements of the league.

He added: "the BCHL is very appreciated in Chilliwack and we definitely want hockey here this year. So we are talking with the people from Quesnel to see if we can create a good fit."

The Quesnel ownership group has publicly stated that it is unlikely that the team will remain in the city next year, and sources close to the Millionaires confirmed to the Times that the British Columbia Hockey League team is now as good as gone.

Asked about plans to move the Millionaires to Chilliwack, Wray told the Times "As far as my understanding is concerned, that's the only offer on the table."

If the Millionaires do come to Chilliwack, they would be named the Chiefs, with the Langley franchise that took that name west having officially rebranded as the Rivermen this week.

“I do get quite excited about the natural rivalry that would exist between a BCHL team in Chilliwack and our former team in Langley,” said Keith.

Whether or not Harvey Smyl would return to coach the new Chiefs, as has been speculated, is unclear. The Times was not able to contact Smyl before press time.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Former Cents Defenceman Matt Mazzarolo Commits to Neumann University:


The BCHL announced earlier today that former Centennials defenceman Matt Mazzarolo has committed to attend Neumann University. He'll play along side another former Centennial in Jordan Zalba, who just wrapped up his second season with the Knights.

Here's the release from BCHL.ca:

Coquitlam Express defenceman Matt Mazzarolo has accepted an offer to play for the Neumann University Knights beginning this fall.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound blueliner developed a reputation as a steady defender over three seasons in the BCHL. The Surrey product played two campaigns with the Merritt Centennials and played four games with the Surrey Eagles this season before finishing with the Express.

In 149 career games, Mazzarolo scored six goals and 24 assists and racked up 254 penalty minutes.

With Neumann, Mazzarolo goes to a NCAA Division III program that won a national title just two seasons ago. This season under third-year coach Dominick Dawes, the Knights went 14-9-5 and received a berth into the NCAA Tournament.

The Knights compete in the Eastern College Athletic Conference West conference. The university is located in Aston, Pennsylvania.