Sportswave.ca

PJHL Expands

Photo Credit Chilliwack Jets

Each year hockey leagues undergo various changes, but none as significant as this year for the Pacific Junior Hockey League.

After years of being at the helm, tons of hard work, tireless hours and lord knows how many phone calls league Commissioner/President Ray Stonehouse is stepping down to spend time with his Family.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with Ray for various reasons and from my point of view, he is as professional as you can get and wish him well in his retirement.

Stepping in to fill the void is Trevor Alto, who is no stranger to the game as he previously worked in the BCHL office and we’ll have more on his role in the upcoming weeks.

At one of our final Delta TV broadcasts this year myself and broadcast partner Steve Daniel had a chance to chat with incoming Commissioner Trevor Alto about his new role, given what changes might transpire.

Steve, Trevor and myself
Photo Credit Sportswave Media

One of his first tasks which makes history for the PJHL is announcing the league is expanding and adding it’s 13th franchise which will play at the Sardis Sports Complex and hopefully hitting the ice this coming September.

If we go back in history the league was called the West Coast Junior Hockey League (WCJHL) which was founded in 1966 numbering six teams, one being the Grandview Steelers which is still in operation.

Remembering History

The league was in operation for only the 1971 – 1972 season with Chilliwack Jets having players such as Steve Hunt and Wayne Nichols playing in front of Chilliwack born goaltender Joe Radick, who eventually went on to play for the Delta Hurry Kings.

One player for the Jets that went on to further his career was Wayne Banard, who played for the Vancouver Villas (1972-73) and the Chilliwack Bruins (1973-74) both teams in the BCJHL. 

He eventually went on to play for the Waterloo Siskins for the 1985-86 and 1986-87 seasons, but the rest of his career was short lived.

The other teams in the WCJHL in the 1971-72 season were the Coquitlam Comets, Maple Ridge Monarchs, Nor-Wes Caps, Surrey Stampeders, Vancouver Jr. Canucks, Grandview Steelers and the White Rock Rangers.

The Jet’s are going back in history with the City of Chilliwack and naming the team the “Jet’s” which is the name of the last Junior “B” team that played in Chilliwack. 

Ownership for the new franchise is Clayton Robertson and two local silent partners, but Clayton will play a dual role acting as both the Head Coach and General Manager.

Backing up in time he played Juvenile in Chilliwack, tried out for the Abbotsford Pilots, but never made the squad and eventually went to work at the Okanagan Hockey School as an Instructor for a couple of years while still going to school.

As one might expect he took a “time-out” from hockey for about five years, got married and eventually got back into the game coaching at the Bantam and Midget level that saw his squad win the Provincials.

One individual he looked up to was Phil Blake, a skills coach in Coquitlam who coached Clayton when he was younger and sort of set the ground rules.

Clayton has a younger sister and grew up playing some minor in Coquitlam, but eventually his Family moved to the Valley and Chilliwack, where he grew fond of what the community has to offer Families and knew that one day he would return.

He mentioned that the thought of getting a team back in the Valley was “a long time coming” and not only are they going back in history, they are going back to the “old” Chilliwack Minor Hockey colors something like the Buffalo Sabres had.

Initially he put in a request to the league to put a franchise in Chilliwack, but the Sardis Arena never had the third sheet of ice so were “sort of” denied by minor hockey in town.

As one might expect frustration set in, he purchased the Nanaimo Buccaneers in the VIJHL, which had strong fan support in the community, which is essential for any Junior franchise.

He began having conversations with Ray this past November and from there the rest is history and currently they are in the process of working on a sponsorship deal.

He mentions that being involved in the community means somewhat of a “local feel” which is imperative for a success franchise.

One can assume that they will be in the Harold Britton Conference in the Valley giving them seven teams, while the Tom Shaw Conference has six and rumor has it the league could expand for a 14th team in the near future – but not next year.

The league has a pay to play model, which makes the PJHL more stable for ownership as well the players live at home rather than being billitted out as well as less travel.

Clayton mentions that the team will be possibly older with a mix of younger players all with a local flavor and players they have coached in the past.

I asked about how receptive the BCHL Chiefs were and he mentioned “no the Chiefs were really good and their first arena to play at the secondary rink at Prospera Centre, but with the third rink at Sardis it was a no-brainer.”

In the next couple of weeks more notices will go out indicating that they have signed about 12 players with the possibility of an upcoming trade in the works, but that’s the untold story.

Interestingly enough the Nanaimo Buccaneers hosted the first ever Prospect game in January that saw the VIJHL play host to the PJHL, which was followed by the All-Star game played in Ladner hosted by the Delta Ice Hawks.

Lastly he mentioned that they are a local group that are planning on running a Junior ‘A” program in a Junior “B” environment and focus on players from the Valley, with one or two from out of town.

Practice time will be midday so the players don’t have to miss any school and lastly he mentions that they understand how important volunteers are to making a franchise a success.

If anyone wants any additional info, feel free to contact Clayton at chilliwackjets@gmail.com.

Thanks to Clayton for his time and we wish him all the best moving forward!!!!