Monday, June 22, 2015

Welcome to the BCHL!












Hello there hockey fans, wherever you may be. I'm John Meissner, the newly-minted radio voice of the Wenatchee Wild (Here's the press release to prove it!), now entering our first season in the British Columbia Hockey League.

This blog will bring you the latest information, plus some facts and figures about the BCHL, one of the most highly respected junior hockey leagues in North America. With that said, let's drop the puck and get into some exciting BCHL/Wenatchee Wild hockey action. Ohhhhhhh Baby!

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The league's roots date back to 1961, when groups representing four teams, from Kelowna, Kamloops, Penticton and Vernon gathered in Vernon to form what was then known as the Okanogan-Mainline Junior Hockey League.

With the addition of teams in New Westminster and Victoria in the early 70s, the league changed it's name to the British Columbia Junior Hockey League.

Since those humble beginnings in Vernon, teams have come and gone, but with the addition of the Wenatchee Wild, the circuits' first American-based team since the Bellingham Ice Hawks left in 1995, the BCHL numbers 17 strong and competitive teams, playing in three seperate divisions. Member teams play for the Fred Page Cup, with the winner moving on to play for the Royal Bank Cup (To be held in 2016 in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan).

BCHL games can be followed on the league's website, bchl.ca, on local radio in each teams' market, with live streaming video available at fasthockey.com.

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The Alberni Valley Bulldogs are members of the BCHL's Island Division, based in Port Alberni, where they've played since moving from Burnaby in 2002.

The Bulldogs play in the Weyerhaeuser Arena and won the Coastal Division title in 2010.. Earlier this off-season, three alumni signed NHL contracts within a one-month period.

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The Chilliwack Chiefs play in the beautiful Propsera Centre, joining the BCHL in 2011, after the city's WHL team relocated to Victoria. The franchise started out in Quesnel, playing as the Millionaires from 1975 through 2011 The franchise originated as part of the Peace Cariboo Junior Hockey League, joining the BCHL in 1996. Chilliwack is the defending Mainland Division Champion.

The Chiefs will again host the league showcase, to be played September 24th through the 27th.

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The Coquitlam Express play in the Mainland Division. The team originated in Coquitlam in 2001, moving to Burnaby in 2005. The team moved back to Coquitlam in 2010.

Coquitlam won the RBC Cup in 2006. Some of their more well-known alumni include Kyle Turris, Milan Lucic and Patrick Wiercioch.

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The Cowichan Valley Capitals compete in the Island Division and are based in Duncan, British Columbia. The team has had two seperate runs in the area, the first beginning in 1980 and the second in 1988. They've won two division titles and have featured such players as Geoff Courtnall, Dean Evason and Dan Hodgson.

The Caps play in the Island Savings Centre, affectionately known as The Stick. The rink features a Hall of Fame, as well as what's touted to be the world's largest hockey stick and puck.

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The Langley Rivermen began as the Chilliwack Chiefs in 1990 and moved to Langley in 2006, after being forced out of Chilliwack by the Western Hockey League. They became the Rivermen in 2011. The Mainland Division club last won the division title in 2014.

Langley, which plays in the 5,276 seat Langley Events Centre, boasts Ron Greschner, Shawn Horcoff and Jeff Tambellini as some of their more well-known alumni.

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The Merritt Centennials were founded in 1961, having played in Kamloops and White Rock, before locating to Merritt in 1973. They are the BCHL's longest-running franchise. They play in the Interior Division.

Jeff Bandura, Link Gaetz, Paul Mulvey and Don Nachbaur are some of the team's more well-known alumni.

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The Nanaimo Clippers play in the BCHL's Island Division. They first began play in 1972, spent one year in Esquimalt when displaced by the city's short-lived Western Hockey League franchise, returning in 1983.The Clippers have won four Fred Page Cups and hosted the Royal Bank Cup in 1998,

The Clippers, who play their Island Division home games in the 3,000 seat Frank Crane Arena, have boasted alumni such as Mel Bridgman, Paul Cyr, Jason Garrison, Al Hill, Gary Lupul, Barry Pedersen and the Robertsons, Geordi and Torrie.

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The Penticton Vees were formed in 1961, taking the name of the city's existing senior team. According to the team's wikipedia page, the name Vees, has nothing to do with the word Victory, but rather stands for three types of peaches grown in the area. They play in the Interior Division.

The Vees won the 2012 RBC Cup and have had 35 former players move on to the National Hockey League.

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The Powell River Kings joined the BCHL as the Paper Kings in 1988, dropping the Paper from their name in 1998. The franchise played in Abbotsford and Delta before relocating to Powell River.

The Kings play in the Island Division and claim seven division crowns, making it to the league finals seven times as well. Hap Parker Arena is their home ice. Willie Mitchell, Brad Bombadir, and Cory Clouston have all played for the Kings.

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The Prince George Spruce Kings were formed in 1972, keeping the same name and market the entire time. Besides the Peace-Cariboo league and the BCHL, they have also been members of the Rocky Mountain League. They play in the Mainland Division.

The Spruce Kings hosted the Royal Bank Cup in 2007, winning the semi-final over Camrose in quintuple overtime, before losing the final.

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The Salmon Arm Silverbacks play in the BCHL's Interior Division, taking the division pennant in 2004.

The Silverbacks were formed in 2001 and play their home games in the Shaw Centre. The Preident/General Manager is former WHL star Troy Mick.

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The Surrey Eagles began BCHL play in 1988 as the New Westminster Royals, moving to Surrey in 1991. They have won ten division crowns and last won the Mainland Division title in 2013. They also won the Fred Page and Western Canada Cups that same year. They've won the Fred Page Cup three other times as well.

Scott Gomez, Scott Hannan, Rick Lanz, Jack McIlhargey, John Olver and Cliff Ronning are some of the team's more well-known alumni.

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The Trail Smoke Eaters boast one of the more well known names in amateur hockey, as their former senior team represented Canada at the World's Championships, winning the World title in 1961. A hockey team in Trail first called themselves the Smoke Eaters in the1920s.

The Junior level Smokies began play in 1926 and won 22 Mowat Cups over a 29 year stretch. They purchased the Bellingham Ice Hawks franchise and joined the BCHL in 1995. They have competed in the Interior Division ever since.

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BCHL hockey has been played in Vernon, the founding city of the league, since 1961. Duncan Wray, the leagu's chairman, is the team's owner.

The teaam has been known as the Junior Canadians, Blades, Essos, Vikings, Lakers and Rockets, before becoming the Vipers in 1995. They've won the BCHL's playoff crown 12 times. They have won the Centennial or RBC Cup a record six times.

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There's good news from the Grizzlies camp, as the team just recently signed a five-year extension of their lease with the Q Centre, formerly known as the Bear Mountain Arena.

Victoria first played in the BCHL as the Cougers in 1967through 1971. They were known as the Warriors from 1990 to 1993, the Salsa from 1994 through 2006 and have been known as the Grizzlies ever since. They hosted the RBC Cup in 2009. The Island Division squad's last division title came in 2014.

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The Wenatchee Wild are prepping for their first season in the BCHL, having been members of the North American Hockey League since since 2008. The team won three division titles, played in the league final twice and have had a winning record every year of their existance. They will play in the Mainland Division in 2015-16. Their home games are played in the 4,300 seat Town Toyota Center, with an average per-game attendance of nearly 3,000.

The Head Coach/General Manager of the team is Bliss Littler, the winningest Junior coach in the history of Junior hockey. Coach Littler is assisted by Tom Rudrud and Chris Clark, with Pepe Sandoval as the athletic trainer. The current franchise moved from Fresno, California in time for the 2013-14 season, after the original franchise moved to Texas. All Wild games, home and away, can be heard this season on 560 KPQ radio.

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The West Kelowna Warriors moved from Langley in 2006 and were originally known as the Westside Warriors, adopting the name West Kelowna in 2012.

The team played as the Langley Thunder from 1994 to 1998, the Langley Hornets from 1998 to 2006 and the Westside Warriors from 2006 through 2012.

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And that's all for now. See you soon with more BCHL News and notes.

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