Late last month the BCHL board of governors approved a new postseason format for the 2017 BC Ford Dealers Road to the Fred Page Cup BCHL Playoffs.
In a press release, the league stated the need to carefully plan its playoff format is on three divisions – the Island, Mainland and Interior Divisions – but must arrive at two teams remaining to compete for the title.
Here is how the structure plays out, with all series a best-of-seven. Island Division: the top-four teams will make the playoffs with the No. 1-seed facing the No. 4-seed and the No. 2-seed facing the No. 3-seed in Round 1. The winners will advance to the division finals. The winner of the division finals will advance to play the winner of the Mainland Division, which has the same amount qualifying.
In the Interior Division all six teams will qualify, including a possible crossover team from the Mainland Division. With the teams ranked No. 1 to No. 6, the top two seeds will get a first-round bye.
Penticton Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson has two issues with the restructuring. The first is he doesn’t like the long layoff, 18 days, for the top two teams.
“Secondly, and most importantly, I don’t like and I have trouble understanding how you can make decisions on anything once 33 per cent of your schedule has already been played,” said Harbinson, who before the season started, said it was a disaster not having the playoff format in place before the season began.
The Round 1 matchups will see the No. 3-seed facing the No. 6-seed and the No. 4-seed facing the No. 5-seed. In Round 2, the No. 1-seed (having had a bye) will face the lowest-seeded team to advance. The No. 2-seed (having had a bye) will face the other team that advances.
Should fifth-place team in the Mainland Division in the Mainland Division have more points than the sixth-place team from the Interior, the Mainland team will cross over to the Interior and play as the No. 6-seed in Round 1.
At that time, the BCHL had decided to stick with the same format, which featured round-robin play in the third round between three teams to decide the final two. They were going to stay with that since the governors failed to come up with a better solution.
“We tried to come up with an idea in the summer that was shot down,” said Harbinson. “The brake should have been put on right there. Really grind it out to try to figure out what the solution was before the season started. Once the season starts, you play that many games, it’s easy to say ‘oh we’re going to do what’s right for the league.’ You can’t tell me that certain teams wouldn’t look at it and go, well this might not be a bad idea considering where we are at in the standings. It’s human nature to try and take care of your own. I think it was tough to put the teams in a situation to make decisions once they have already played 30 per cent of their schedule.”
BCHL commissioner John Grisdale said it was a decision made by the board of governors and not a proposal the league was involved with. He also said it wasn’t a non-unanimous vote.
“We hope that it is successful,” said Grisdale. “It’s different. There certainly wasn’t an appetite for round robin in the league. This is what they have moved to for this year. There will be further discussions at the semi-annual meeting in January.”
When asked if it will take the value out of the regular season for the Interior Division, Grisdale said “any time you have all the teams in the division making the playoffs, what we’ve experienced in the last three years when we’ve had the round robin in the Interior, there has been good divisional races for the final playoff spot.”
“We won’t see that this year. On the other hand, we will see the top two teams in the division, sitting out round one for 18 days,” he said, adding it isn’t ideal.
Prior to this decision, Grisdale said they tried to come up with a format, but failed.
Once the Interior determines its champion, that team will play the winner of the Island-Mainland best-of-seven in the Fred Page Cup BCHL Finals.