February 26th, 2024

AJHL scrambling after defection of 5 teams to BCHL

By The Canadian Press on January 20, 2024.

The Alberta Junior Hockey League, apparently caught off guard by the defection of five teams, has scratched four games from its schedule while it evaluates further implications.

The Blackfalds Bulldogs, Brooks Bandits, Okotoks Oilers, Sherwood Park Crusaders and Spruce Grove Saints have joined the neighbouring B.C. Hockey League.

The AJHL, which said Saturday it had received no official notice from the five teams, cancelled four weekend games. The Olds Grizzlys were supposed to have played the Bulldogs on Saturday, while the Bandits were to have hosted the Drayton Valley Thunder.

On Sunday, the Calgary Canucks were scheduled to host the Saints, and the Whitecourt Wolverines were supposed to visit the Bandits.

In May, the BCHL shook up the hockey world by revealing it was becoming an independent league, opting not to renew its agreement with Hockey Canada.

BCHL Chief Executive Office Chris Hebb said at the time that “Junior A hockey has been undervalued in Canada,” indicating that college tracking was the trend and where a lot of NHL players were coming from.

Hebb asked in May: “Thirty-three per cent of the NHL is coming from college, so why in Canada can we not have a league that is doing a heck of a job of creating college commitments be supported as an alternative to Major Junior?”

Both the AJHL and BCHL announced they would be restructuring in the days ahead.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2024.

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