(Special to The News)

(Special to The News)

Mainland Junior B hockey leagues announce new partnership

Department of player safety, prospects game are early initiatives impacting Ridge Meadows Flames

Junior B hockey leagues in the Lower Mainland and the Kootenays have announced a new partnership.

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) and the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) have created the British Columbia Hockey Conference. The new organization is a partnership designed to advance their level of competitive hockey.

Maple Ridge’s own Ridge Meadows Flames compete in the PJHL.

The BCHC’s inaugural season includes two major projects:

• The creation of a Department of Player Safety that will oversee enhanced supplementary disciplinary procedures.

• A new Prospects Game that will highlight its top young players.

“The creation of the BCHC marks an important first step in a collaboration between our leagues to grow, develop and promote our junior hockey footprint,” said PJHL commissioner Trevor Alto. “The PJHL and KIJHL have been two of the preeminent development leagues for aspiring junior-aged hockey players over a number of decades, and it only makes sense that we would work more closely together.”

The BCHC’s Department of Player Safety will be led by Jason Rende in the role of director, as well as Tom Getzie, Willy Saari and Rob Schweitzer as coordinators. Rende brings over 35 years experience as a game official, supervisor and mentor, and has most recently been serving as BC Hockey’s High Performance Officiating Coordinator for the Interior, Kootenays and Northern B.C.

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“Partnering to create this department represents a significant step forward in enhancing player safety and professionalizing the on-ice disciplinary processes in our respective leagues,” said KIJHL Commissioner Jeff Dubois. “Jason and his team will utilize video review to ensure the most serious offences are dealt with appropriately, and they’ll also have the ability to rescind infractions when doing so is warranted.”

The BCHC Prospects Game will showcase the top young talent from both leagues for coaches and scouts from Junior A programs and beyond. Details of the inaugural Prospects Game are yet to be announced. The KIJHL and PJHL have combined to move hundreds of players on to higher levels of junior and college hockey, including Stanley Cup champions Brent Seabrook and Milan Lucic and Olympic gold medallist Shea Weber.

There are currently BCHC graduates playing in the BCHL, WHL, NCAA, U Sports and the National Hockey League.

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