Reduced playoff teams among BCHL changes

Change is coming to the BCHL in 2011-12.

Curtis Loik was a 17-year-old rookie for the Penticton Vees last season. BCHL board of governors have voted to make at least one roster spot mandatory for 16- and 17-year-old players.

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.

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