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The Vancouver Island Junior League withdraws from Hockey Canada

The Vancouver Island Junior League withdraws from Hockey Canada

The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) has declared its independence and withdraws from Canadian hockey.

The board representing 11 VIJHL teams has voted to withdraw its affiliation with Hockey Canada and BC Hockey to enhance development opportunities for players and give the league greater autonomy in the future.

“The VIJHL is pleased to announce our move to become an independent league starting next season and operating outside the Hockey Canada umbrella going forward,” VIJHL president Simon Morgan said in a statement. “After months of hard work behind the scenes by the ownership group of our 11 franchises, this decision to move the VIJHL to a new space in junior hockey will allow players more opportunities to develop in the future.”

The move will give the VIJHL the freedom to join independent Junior A teams in the BC Hockey League (BCHL), which now includes five of the top former Alberta Junior Hockey League teams as well. The BCHL left Hockey Canada and British Columbia Hockey to form an independent league on June 1, 2023.

They will also have the ability to make decisions that are in their best interest, increase the number of players, raise the level of play in the league and much more, the VIJHL release said.

Their withdrawal from Hockey Canada and its members means that the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) and the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) are the remaining Junior A teams sanctioned by Hockey Canada in British Columbia.

In response, the KIJHL and PJHL reaffirmed their commitment to remaining as sanctioned members of Hockey Canada and BC Hockey.

“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 advance the level of junior hockey in British Columbia and provide enhanced opportunities for athletes.

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.

Since 1981, the KIJHL, PJHL and VIJHL champions, along with a rotating home team, have competed in the junior provincial championship formerly known as the Cyclone Taylor Cup (until 2023) and now known as the Mowat Cup (2024 onwards).

Representatives of the KIJHL and PJHL have combined to win 38 of the 42 championships since the three-league format was adopted.

The Beaver Valley Nitehawks are a member of the KIJHL and have won the league championship eight times, are a four-time Columbia champion, and are a perennial Murdoch Division title contender.

“We are very pleased with the progress of the KIJHL and PJHL as they move towards strengthening the Junior A level in our province,” says Cameron Hope, CEO of Hockey BC. “These leagues have demonstrated a clear and ongoing commitment to prioritizing the safety, development and playing experience of BC and Yukon players.

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“We are disappointed in the VIJHL team owners’ decision to operate outside of the safe and regulated community sports model of sanctioned hockey, but we wish them well.”

READ: Trail Minor Hockey shares concerns about BC Hockey's sanctions to the BCHL

READ: Eight West Kootenay referees go all-in with BCHL

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