With the Cranbrook Bucks set to hit the ice as a BCHL expansion squad next fall, the junior A circuit has unveiled its realignment plan.
Gone are the three current divisions — Mainland, Island and Interior — replaced by two conferences.
The Chilliwack Chiefs will play in the Coastal conference along with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, Coquitlam Express, Cowichan Valley Capitals, Langley Rivermen, Nanaimo Clippers, Powell River Kings, Surrey Eagles and Victoria Grizzlies.
The Prince George Spruce Kings are finally where they belong geographically, joining an Interior conference that includes the Bucks, Merritt Centennials, Penticton Vees, Salmon Arm Silverbacks, Trail Smoke Eaters, Vernon Vipers, Wenatchee Wild and West Kelowna Warriors.
“With Cranbrook coming into the league next year, the league and the board (of governors) recognized the need to alter our current divisional alignment,” said BCHL Executive Director Steven Cocker. “The new format makes the most sense geographically and is a logical step for the future of the BCHL.”
The league is also dropping four games from the regular season schedule, from 58 to 54.
Doing the math, that should mean Chilliwack plays four games apiece (two home, two away) against Coastal conference rivals (36 games) and two apiece against the Interior (18 games).
The regular season will also start later, pushed back into September.
“The decision to reduce our games next season to 54 was a difficult move, but with our league mandate around player safety, we see this as what’s best for the development of our players,” Cocker said. “This will also result in fewer three-in-three weekends and proper rest between games in order to maximize time for practice and recovery.
“Another important component of the schedule was getting out of the month of August. Our camps will now open in early September with season openers at the end of the month. We feel this will best serve our athletes in their out-of-season development.”