Tag Archives: New Westminster

B.C. MINOR HOCKEY

by Ron Spence

Senior and minor league hockey have experienced a reversal of fortune over the past eighty years. The B.C. Amateur Hockey Association was formed in 1919 and minor hockey was given a back seat. There were a limited number of covered arenas and it was reasoned that transportation was too slow and expensive for the kids to travel to playoffs. So minor hockey wasn’t encouraged.

Even Junior hockey was supported largley because of the efforts of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. They were farsighted enough to realize that adult amateur and professional hockey needed a foundation of junior prospects. So during the 1925-26 season the CAHA gave the B.C.A.H.A. $200 to promote Junior Hockey.

B.C. had thirteen junior teams five years later, but the CAHA wasn’t happy with B.C.’s minor hockey progress and threatened to cut the Junior grant. So the BCAHA started registering Midget and Juvenile teams that 1932-33 season. There were four Juvenile sides by the 1934-35 season, and the CAHA alotted another $500.

Then minor hockey received a grass roots boost. New Westminster built the Queen’s Park Arena prior to the 1937-38 season and formed a Pee Wee Hockey Association. Two years later the Vancouver Minor Hockey Association was also formed. It became known as the PNE Minor Hockey and Hastings Minor Hockey Association and is today called the Vancouver Hastings Minor Hockey Association.

B.C.’s minor programs were further promoted when trophies were donated. The Cromie Cup was first given to the Midget champions the 1937-38 season. By then there were four Midget teams and nine Juniors but the Juveniles had fallen off to just one team.

Minor hockey grew and the next year there were two additional Junior sides, a second Juvenile squad and seven more Midget teams. The Monarch Life Cup was awarded that season to the Juveniles’ champion.

Following the war the BCAHA started registering Bantam teams but discouraged travel to tournaments (There would be no Bantam playoffs until 1960-61.). The association also discouraged inter-provincial playdowns, reasoning that that playoffs would interfere with the players’ schooling.

Minor hockey received a further boost in February, 1954 when the BCAHA promoted “Minor Hockey Week” (Two years later they presented a resolution to the CAHA to have Minor Hockey Week recognized across Canada and later convinced Imperial Oil to promote Minor Hockey Week on Hockey Night in Canada.). The BCAHA kept the ball rolling when they started handing out Minor Hockey awards in 1958-59.

Pee Wee hockey was finally recognized by the BCAHA in 1955-56 and considered a division two years later. The Pee Wees were allowed district playdowns, but had to wait until 1969-70 for semi-finals, or finals, because the Pee Wees were again considered too young (The older Bantams were allowed to compete for a B.C. championship the 1960-61 season.).

During the 1950s the BCAHA introduced unique legislation. The Trail Minor Hockey Association sponsored a resolution – the 1954-55 season – banning body checking in Minor Hockey. The logic was that players would become better playmakers and stickhandlers if they weren’t concerned with bodychecking. This rule lasted until 1966.

From the late 1950s, until the early 1970s, minor hockey grew in leaps and bounds. By 1960-61 there were 108 Minor hockey teams in the BCAHA and there were 8,000 B.C. minor leaguers playing the next year.

During the 1960s the reversal of fortune was apparent. The BCAHA had an enrollment of 4809 Pee Wees, 2169 Bantams, 1444 Midgets, 621 Juveniles, 294 Juniors, and 224 Intermediates. But there were only 67 Seniors.

Minor hockey was declining by 1980, however. There had been 52,000 players in 1974 but only 36,000 in 1980. Reasons given were: Equipment was getting too expensive; The kids had other interests; Televised games had given hockey a negative image; And there was too much of a focus on the allstars, rather than the rest of the players.

By the late 1980s, however, minor hockey was growing once again. The Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association doubled their enrollment from 1989 to 1998. There was even a shortage of ice time for many minor league players.

But this time it wasn’t because the Senior leagues were excluding the minor hockey players. The reversal of fortune had taken place.

THE B.C. (JUNIOR) HOCKEY LEAGUE

by Ron Spence

Background

British Columbia hockey was alive and well by the time that the West Coast Hockey League folded in 1926. B.C.’s first junior hockey championships were scheduled the following season, when the Vancouver Terminals beat Salmon Arm. The next year, when the Mowat Cup was introduced, there were nine eligible teams from the Kootenays, Okanagan, Prince George, Victoria and Vancouver.

Talent was evenly distributed, and Fernie won the first cup, Nelson the second and Vancouver the third and fourth.

There were thirteen junior teams by the 1930-31 season, and Trail won the fifth and sixth cups.

The Okanagan Junior “A” Hockey League was formed the 1961-62 season, with the Kelowna Buckaroos, Vernon Canadians, Kamloops Rockets and the Penticton Vees competing. The Kootenay Junior “B” Hockey League was started the 1969-70 season.

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BCHL Graduate Carey Price - courtesy of Tri-City

BCHL Grad Carey Price - courtesy of Tri-City Americans

The B.C. Junior Hockey League was formed the year before NHL expansion, and included teams from Kamloops, Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton, New Westminster and Victoria.

Fewer teams were included to maintain a higher standard. Additional junior teams were relegated to B circuits.

Three years later, Vancouver and Chilliwack joined the league in 1970, and the BCJHL was divided into Coast and Okanagan divisions.

The league’s first major problem arose when some owners wanted to split from the B.C. Amateur Hockey Association (Only three of eight attended the Association’s annual meeting.). These owners wanted over-age players, and didn’t want Memorial Cup playdowns interfering with their lengthy seasons. The Association compromised, allowing the owners to have four over-age players. The teams had to compete in Tier Two Provincial playdowns, however, and were told to discontinue any affiliation with prairie teams. A second problem resulted when some prairie teams started signing B.C. players without proper releases.

Nanaimo and Bellingham next joined the BCJHL, and New West, Vancouver and Victoria left for the WCHL the following season.

In August, 1972 the rival Pacific International Junior “A” Hockey League was formed. It consisted of six teams, expanded to eight, and became the Pacific Junior Hockey League two years later, when Seattle and Portland left. The league folded the 1980-81 season, and several of the Pacific teams joined the BCJHL.

With teams coming and going, the BCJHL formed two different divisions. The interior teams were Kelowna, Merritt, Penticton and Vernon, and the coast teams were Bellingham, Chilliwack, Langley and Nanaimo.

Some of the BCJHL’s best players starred during the early and mid-eighties.

Ray Ferraro of Penticton, Dan Hodgson of Cowichan Valley, and Craig Redmond of Abbotsford led the league in scoring. And during the 1983-84 season, Brett Hull of Penticton set a league record with 105 goals and 188 points.

Other NHLers, who once played in the BCHL include: Boston’s Chuck Kobasew (Penticton Panthers), the Rangers’ Scott Gomez (South Surrey Eagles), St. Louis’ Paul Kariya (Penticton), and Montreal’s Carey Price (Quesnel Millionaires).

The B.C. Hockey League has expanded into three divisions and developed into Canada’s best Junior A circuit. Three lower mainland teams and Powell River have been grouped with four island teams to form the Coastal Conference.

The eight Interior Conference teams range from Prince George, through the Cariboo plateau, and Okanagan valley to the Kootenays.

The winner of the BCHL playoffs is awarded the Fred Page Cup, and continues on to play for the Doyle Cup against the champion of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The winner of the Doyle Cup then competes in the Junior “A” National Championship for the Royal Bank Cup (formerly called the Centennial Cup).

Over the past two decades, the Vernon Lakers (later called the Vipers), won the Royal Bank Cup in 1990, 1991, 1996 and 1999. The Kelowna Spartans won it in 1993, the South Surrey Eagles in 1998 and the Burnaby Express in 2006.

Courtesy of Hockey Canada

Courtesy of Hockey Canada

It’s great for the B.C. Hockey League, because four other provinces/areas have been giving them a run for their money.

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League won the Royal Bank Cup in 2003, 2008 (both times Humboldt Broncos), and in 2005 (Weyburn Red Wings). The Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League won the Cup in 2004 and 2007 (Aurora Tigers twice) and the Maritimes Junior “A” Hockey League twice in 1997 (Summerside Western Capitals) and in 2002 (Halifax Exports). And two Alberta teams, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, and Camrose Kodiaks won the Royal Bank Cup in 2000 and 2001.

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This article was first written for the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame.