I had the pleasure of sitting in and helping out with the BCHL Scheduling Meeting yesterday at the Hilton Vancouver Airport in Richmond.
The AGM was considered "in-camera", so there aren't many details I can give you prior to them being released by the league, but I can give a little insight into how the 2012-13 schedule was pieced together.
The first thing for teams within each division to go over was the interlock portion, which was on Friday night. This portion of the schedule was done in advance of the AGM by the BCHL and it means that each team will play every other team in the league both home and away in 2012-13. So for teams in the Interior Division, 20 of their games were already scheduled. And for the Mainland and Island Divisions, 22 games were already scheduled.
The BCHL Showcase schedule also needed to be sorted out. The first time event, which runs September 7 - 9, features all BCHL teams and counts as regular season games in the standings. I can't divulge too much about the Showcase schedule other than obviously the Chiefs games are considered "prime" because Chilliwack is hosting the event and there are some out-of-division match-ups. Due to the fact that all 16 teams are taking part and there are 32 games to be scheduled over three days, I can also say that there are games at different times throughout, so it's a great opportunity to get your BCHL fix!
As for the inter-divisional schedule, I was overseeing the Island Division table, just to keep the team representatives on point and to record a master copy of the schedule they hammered out. Obviously having a team like Powell River in this division represents many challenges since most games need to accommodate when the ferry runs back to Vancouver Island.
Teams also had a number of blackout dates where they didn't have ice or whatever and those needed to be accommodated too. They tried to balance things like not having too many home games on a weekend (like three in a row) or an imbalance of home and road games in a month or too many games in one month and not enough in another. The Christmas break also presented some challenges as some teams like to schedule games on the weekend before Christmas while others don't and some like games between Christmas and New Year's while others don't.
Others don't want too many Sunday games as they're not a good draw for them and they avoid scheduling games that conflict with other high profile sporting events like Grey Cup or Super Bowl. Others have special events planned for specific dates and HAVE to have a game scheduled or want to book a weekend where they have two home games on a Friday/Saturday or Saturday/Sunday for a Parent's Weekend or similar event.
Veteran team personnel like Powell River's Doug McCormick, Victoria's Mark Wagstaff and Nanaimo's Mike Vandekamp obviously have a ton of scheduling experience, but that didn't necessarily give them an edge over anyone else as the teams tried to give and take to get the best schedule for all involved. As I observed, not one team got every single thing they wanted, but they bartered back and forth until a workable agreement could be reached.
The most interesting thing I noticed was that as the teams were negotiating their schedules, there were certain scenarios that got them really pumped up for the season, whether it was the scheduling of a home-and-home series or back-to-back games in a specific team's rink or a situation where a team plays another 3-4 times in a week, they really got excited about the possibilities from a marketing and fan's point of view.
I truly thank the five teams in the Island Division (Alberni Valley, Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo, Powell River & Victoria) for working with me and allowing me to oversee their scheduling and as I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, I appreciate John Grisdale, Brent Mutis and the BCHL for allowing me to help out! I'm a fan of this league first and a media member second, so it was a lot of fun to see a side of the league's operations that not many fans get to see.
Now I know most fans (and broadcasters) are champing at the bit to see the 2012-13 schedule, but there are still some i's to be dotted and t's to be crossed before it can be released. As I mentioned, the basic schedule is done, but it now needs to be double and triple checked before being released, keep an eye on the blog and on the BCHL website to see it!