With the BCHL leaving Hockey Canada and becoming its own entity on Thursday, June 1, the league is set to operate under rules that could give its teams a new look by next season.
Although the league said Wednesday it remains committed to growing B.C.-born and raised players, it also announced its intent to open up rosters for both 16 and 17-year-old players from out of province, as well as to international athletes.
“During this process, it has always been extremely important to us to maintain our connection with young athletes in British Columbia and to continue prioritizing their development,” said BCHL commissioner Steven Cocker.
The 17 Canadian BCHL teams must roster at least five players from the province, a rule unchanged from last season.
The United States’ lone franchise, the Wenatchee Wild, will also need to continue having a minimum of five players from their own branch, which includes Washington State, California, Colorado and Arizona.
Removed from under the Hockey Canada umbrella, though, the BCHL says each of its teams will now be permitted to roster a maximum of two players from outside North America.
“While it is unfortunate that policies exist that restrict Canadian athletes from affiliating with leagues that benefit them in their development, we are confident that expanded rosters mimicking that of the NCAA, in addition to the independent affiliate pool, will give our teams sufficient access to players,” Cocker said.
League officials on Wednesday added that Russian and Belarussian players are temporarily not allowed due to “the political situation in Russia.”
As of Thursday, the BCHL’s 18 franchises will also be permitted to construct their teams under the following new rules:
• A minimum of three players under the age of 18 are required for each team, an increase from two in previous years;
• A maximum of two former CHL players of any age are permitted on a roster (ex-CHL players rostered to BCHL rosters as of Jan 10, 2023, are to be grandfathered in);
• A maximum of eight affiliate registrations are permitted per team (Affiliates may come from any independent minor/youth/high school league across North America, however, BC Hockey has decided that CSSHL, BCEHL and Junior B can no longer affiliate with BCHL as an independent league).
Ahead of its move away from Hockey Canada, the league also implemented a 10-minute, 3-on-3 overtime format.
Under the BCHL’s previous five-minute OT format, as seen during the NHL’s regular season, 41.5 per cent of overtime games went to a shootout.
Training camps open across the league Sept. 1.