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The KIJHL remains committed to Hockey Canada after the Vancouver Island League splits

The KIJHL remains committed to Hockey Canada after the Vancouver Island League splits

The announcement from Vancouver Island comes one year after the BCHL left its national governing body

Two British Columbia junior hockey leagues say they remain committed to the Hockey Canada umbrella after the Vancouver Island junior hockey league announced it will become independent as a feeder program for the higher, non-sanctioned leagues.

The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey Association announced Monday (April 25) that it will operate independently from Hockey Canada and the BC Hockey Conference starting in 2024-2025 season.

However, representatives of the Kootenai International Junior Hockey League and the Pacific Junior Hockey League say both leagues remain committed to Hockey Canada and Hockey BC.

“The BCHC and its member associations are fully committed to operating under the umbrella of Hockey Canada and BC Hockey,” said KIJHL Commissioner Jeff Dubois. “Over the past year, we have made the efforts and investments necessary to move up to the junior level, with the ultimate goal of providing our players with a pathway to compete in the Centenary Cup, Canada’s national junior championship.”

In 2022, the KIJHL and PJHL formed the BCHC to promote the standard of junior hockey in the province and provide improved opportunities for players.

BCHC initiatives over the past two seasons have included creating a player safety department and creating Top Prospects, which directly led to three recent entrants signing to the Western Hockey League.

“The BCHC, PJHL and KIJHL are well-established and provide exceptional value to participants, fans and sponsors,” said Trevor Alto, PJHL Commissioner. “We look forward to strengthening this reputation further as the impact of today’s announcement is felt throughout the sanctioned Junior A landscape in our province.”

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The VIJHL's decision to leave the Hockey Canada umbrella was made following a board vote by the 11 member teams, which was announced on April 29.

According to a statement, the decision was made to enhance development opportunities for players and give the league more autonomy regarding its future.

Organizationally, Canadian-sanctioned junior hockey has been in a state of flux since the British Columbia Hockey League — previously the province's top-tier junior league — announced it would become independent last year.

Following the BCHL's announcement, Hockey Canada has agreed to move BCHL's three former Junior B leagues – the KIJHL, PJHL and VIJHL – to Junior A.

“We are very pleased with the progress of the KIJHL and PJHL as they move towards strengthening Junior A in our province,” said BC Hockey CEO Cameron Hope. “These leagues have demonstrated a clear and ongoing commitment to prioritizing the safety, development and playing experience of BC and Yukon players. We are disappointed in the VIJHL team owners' decision to operate outside of the safe and regulated community sports model of established hockey, but we wish them well.”

The BCHC continues its efforts to develop the application and evaluation process for KIJHL and PJHL teams to take the next step toward full Junior A hockey, while engaging with Blackfin Sports Group, which is headed by former Canucks Sports & Entertainment executives.

BCHC is expected to announce its next steps in early 2025, with the May 1 application deadline rapidly approaching.

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