The BCHL board of governors has announced a league realignment for next season to accommodate the entry of the Cranbrook Bucks. This will also affect the Penticton Vees. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)

The BCHL board of governors has announced a league realignment for next season to accommodate the entry of the Cranbrook Bucks. This will also affect the Penticton Vees. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)

New league alignment coming for Penticton Vees

Big changes coming for BCHL teams across the province.

The BCHL board of governors has announced a league realignment for next season to accommodate the entry of the Cranbrook Bucks, which will also affect the Penticton Vees.

The league is moving from its current three divisions to two conferences, split between Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland franchises in one group and Interior franchises in another group.

Each conference, coastal and interior will have nine teams each.

Click here for a breakdown of the two conferences.

“With Cranbrook coming into the league next year, the league and the board 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.”

Additional changes include shortening the league schedule to 54 games, a four-game reduction from the current format, as well as starting the season later in 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,” said Cocker. “This will also result in fewer 3-in-3 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.”

As for the remainder of this season, the Vees are currently in a heated race for first in overall league standings. The Vees trail the Coquitlam Express by four points for first overall. Penticton has six games left on the year, while Coquitlam has seven. The two teams meet at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Feb. 14.

The Vees continue their nine-game season-ending home series on Friday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. against Salmon Arm.

–with files from Trevor Crawley, Cranbrook Townsman

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