There’s big changes for the Pacific Junior Hockey League this season, the most obvious being the change to the junior B league’s name.
Formerly called the Pacific International Junior Hockey League, the league’s executive agreed to drop the “International” from their title since all 10 teams are based in the Lower Mainland.
PJHL vice-president and former owner of the Ridge Meadows Flames Ray Stonehouse said the name change was simply a matter of housekeeping given the last American team in the league, the Seattle Northwest Americans, folded after the 1997/98 season.
“We would love to welcome [American teams] back with open arms, but under Hockey Canada’s current rules, that wouldn’t be allowed,” he said.
The rules in question prohibit foreign teams from playing in Hockey Canada-sanctioned junior rep leagues, including junior B.
“There’s been interest, but our hands are tied until Hockey Canada changes it rules,” he said.
Two teams in the league have also undergone a name change this season, as well as a change in ownership.
The Mission Icebreakers are now called the Mission City Outlaws, while the Port Moody Black Panthers are simply known as the Port Moody Panthers.
Both teams have new ownership groups at the helm and wanted to make fresh starts with the franchises, said Stonehouse.
As far as future expansion is concerned, Stonehouse said Cloverdale and Langley would be obvious candidates for junior B franchises.
However, the lack of ice time availability makes it difficult to put a team anywhere.
“Money is not the issue,” said Stonehouse. “Some very well-heeled financial groups have approached us, but there’s so many demands on ice time from senior hockey and minor associations.”
The North Van Wolf Pack’s 2011 relocation from Squamish would not have been possible without the support of the local minor hockey association in North Vancouver, he said.
“The partnerships with the local hockey associations are key,” said Stonehouse. “Unless you are willing to build your own rink.”