Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League offers new Junior A pathway for young players


New ice for the 23/24 season is now in at the Comox Valley Sports Centre, home of the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, one of 11 VIJHL teams moving up from Junior B to the more coveted Junior A level.

“I think it’s exciting for everybody,” said Mike Nesbitt, Comox Valley Glacier Kings coach and general manager.

“Exciting for myself when I call and recruit now I don’t have to say, ‘Hey, it’s Mike Nesbitt from the Junior B team.’ It’s Junior A, and that’s where kids want to be, everyone always wants to be at the top level.”

BC Hockey announced Tuesday a significant transformation that will see current Junior B teams in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, the Pacific Junior Hockey League, and the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League reclassifying as Junior A.

READ ALSO: BC Hockey reclassifies its three Junior B leagues to Junior A to replace rogue BCHL

It replaces the BC Hockey League and teams like the Victoria Grizzlies, Nanaimo Clippers and Alberni Valley Bulldogs at the Junior A level when that league announced it was leaving sanctioned hockey last month.

“It’s nice that we can fill that gap and we’re really fortunate because here in B.C., those leagues that have been operating under the label of Junior B for a long time are terrific. They’re extremely professional, very well run, and they’re ready for this challenge,” said BC Hockey CEO Cam Hope.

The plan means a continued pathway for players to higher levels of hockey, like the Western Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League.

“Having a commitment to increase the roster numbers for players from B.C. is going to open the pathway up and actually make the development of these BC players something that’s more robust,” added Hope.

The Nanaimo Buccaneers is one of 11 teams in the VIJHL.

“There are standards inside the documentation that mean a lot in terms of how much ice time, and what equipment players get, what gear, etc. That was not in the standards of agreement with Junior B teams previously, so, of course, that’s a big one for players and their families when they choose a league to play in,” said Buccaneers co-owner Tali Campbell.

Back in the Glacier Kings dressing room, it’s already getting real with a mini-camp coming up in a couple of weeks and 16 to 20-year-olds allowed to play in the league taking notice.

“We just announced Junior A hockey this morning,g and I’ve already got three or four emails from kids wanting to come out,” said Nesbitt.

Further changes, like teams separating into two tiers, have yet to be worked out.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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