BC Hockey has approved the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s bid to be reclassified a Junior A league.
In a news release, the KIJHL said it will become a Junior A, Tier 2 circuit next season following a unanimous vote by BC Hockey’s board of directors.
The league said it “provides an avenue for its clubs to have the opportunity to compete for a national championship.”
“This marks a tremendous day for the KIJHL and for all BC Hockey members who aspire to play junior hockey,” KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois said in the release.
“We already have an outstanding group of 20 member clubs that operate at a high level on-and-off the ice. Operating under the Junior A Tier 2 designation with the opportunity to pursue Tier 1 membership in the future will help ensure that our league becomes even more of a destination for players who want to pursue their goals as student-athletes.”
The league’s move was prompted by the BCHL’s decision to break away from BC Hockey and become an independent league.
“We’re excited about the opportunities this new pathway will create for junior hockey players in B.C. and Yukon,” BC Hockey board chair Stephanie White said.
“Having these teams dedicate themselves to raised standards, first to Junior A Tier 2, and eventually Junior A Tier 1 for some, will provide more of our talented players with a better player experience at the highest level in our province. BC Hockey is confident that this transformation will strengthen the development pathway immediately, and raise the overall hockey experience for players, coaches, and fans alike.”
As part of its application, the KIJHL made several commitments to increase operating standards, including co-operating with an independent advisory board to evaluate which teams might be elevated to Tier 1.
The KIJHL also committed to a three-year plan that will increase B.C. and Yukon player representation from 44 per cent last season to 52 per cent by 2025/26.
“During this process, we looked at the number of players who have left B.C. over the past number of years to play Junior A hockey elsewhere in Canada and the United States,” Dubois said.
“Our goal is to provide the type of athlete experience that incentivizes those athletes to grow and develop their game without having to look outside their home province.”
The KIJHL also said it expects to release its schedule for next season soon.