Organized hockey in British Columbia dates back to the turn of the twentieth century, though the first amateur hockey league was actually organized under the jurisdiction of the BC Amateur Athletic Union in 1912. Seven (7) years later, the British Columbia Amateur Hockey Association (BCAHA) was formed at a meeting held at the Daily Province Newspaper offices in Vancouver on February 9, 1919. The Secretary-Treasurer of the Saskatchewan Amateur Hockey Association was in attendance and assisted in the organizing of the Association, and John Oliver, Premier of British Columbia, was named Honorary President.
A constitution modeled after the Saskatchewan Amateur Hockey Association was adopted, and the first annual meeting of the Association was held on November 15, 1919 with 16 delegates in attendance. Notable from that first Annual General Meeting (AGM) was the defeat of a resolution to adopt the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA – now Hockey Canada) playing rules, due to the fact that the rules called for teams to play with six (6) players. As there were only three (3) artificial ice arenas at the time in British Columbia, it was felt that seven (7) players a side would give the players more ice time.
From these humble beginnings, the Organization enjoyed steady growth and soon began to serve a leadership role for hockey at the provincial and national levels, a role that continues to the present day. Initially, Senior hockey was the only division under the jurisdiction of the BCAHA, and for over 40 years the assessment of Senior hockey gates would serve as the prime source of revenue for the Association.
During the 1922-1923 season, the first Intermediate Playdowns were held, and it was not until the 1926-1927 season that the Organization crowned their first Junior Champion. Since travel in the province in the early years was slow, expensive and primarily by train, playdowns in minor hockey were discouraged.
It was at the 1932 AGM that it was unanimously agreed that the Organization should register Midget and Juvenile age divisions as per the CAHA Constitution. Midget Playdowns were held for the first time in the 1937-1938 season, Juvenile in the 1939-1940 season, Bantam in 1960-1961 and Pee Wee did not appear until the 1969-1970 campaign.
But while interest in the game seemed to be increasing annually, the Organization had fallen upon hard times by the early 1930s. In fact, there was no AGM of the Association in 1933, with the reason provided in the Secretary-Treasurer’s report that “the Association was broke.”
However, the popularity of minor hockey soon began to show signs of the future, and that this segment of the membership would evolve such that it would eventually serve as the foundation of the Association.
In 1934, four (4) Juvenile teams registered with the Association, becoming the first ever minor hockey registrations. As a result of these registrations a grant of $500 was received from the CAHA to assist in the development of minor hockey.
By 1942, minor hockey was the prime concern at the AGM. It was agreed that playdowns would again be held, opening the door for the CAHA to provide another $1,000 to help develop minor hockey. It was also agreed that the Association would take all necessary steps to encourage registration at the minor level.
By 1944, the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association had begun operations and minor hockey in other parts of the province had begun its rise to prominence, resulting in playdowns between the Lower Mainland, Okanagan Mainline and the East and West Kootenays.
In 1945, as a result of a new agreement between the CAHA and the NHL, the Association received their first payment of funds for a registered BCAHA player turning professional. Alfred “Red” Carr, a Winnipeg native who had played his Senior hockey in Nelson and Nanaimo, was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs and played one (1) wartime season with the club.
By the late forties, the Association had begun to focus resources in the area of development and the first referee schools were held as a result. The Association was now doing well financially, so much so that the Secretary-Treasurer convinced the Executive that reserves should be set aside for the lean years. As a result, the first reserve fund was set up from general funds (primarily senior assessments).
By 1951, registration had blossomed to 2,368 (this did not include players in the house leagues). The 1951 season was notable for the introduction of the player affiliation regulations by the CAHA, and closer to home the first Association awards were implemented to honour contributions to hockey.
Membership expanded into the USA after a resolution was passed to have Spokane pay a three (3) per cent assessment to the Association as they were not members of the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States.
In the mid-fifties, the Association implemented the Mutual Aid Fund to assist minor hockey players injured during play, Pee Wee hockey was recognized for the first time in the province and Minor Hockey Week came to be when, at the May 1956 CAHA annual meeting in Montreal, British Columbia presented a resolution to hold a Canada-wide Minor Hockey Week.
The BCAHA spoke on the resolution at the CAHA Minor Hockey Council, as did the BCAHA President Ed Benson at the General Session. The resolution passed and Minor Hockey Week became a reality that continues today.
Before the close of the decade, the Association would continue their leadership role by holding a Minor Hockey Forum at the AGM, by banning body checking in minor hockey (it was still allowed under CAHA rules) and by registering under the Societies Act of British Columbia.
Registration grew to over 7,000 registered players, with 5,748 registered with the Mutual Aid Fund, helping to grow the fund reserves to $10,800 and even causing some concern that either coverage under the fund would have to increase or premiums would have to be reduced.
The decade of the sixties would open with the realization that the popularity of Senior hockey was, in fact, decreasing. The Association showed an operating loss for the first time in 26 years, as the two (2) per cent assessment of Senior gate fees dropped to $1,634 from a high of $5,867 in 1956-1957 and $8,909 in 1953-1954 when the assessment was three (3) per cent.
But the 108 minor hockey teams now registered with the Association signified that the shift in focus from Senior to minor hockey was gaining momentum. Building on this fact, the Association was successful in having Imperial Oil give Minor Hockey Week considerable coverage on its Hockey Night in Canada.
Leadership by BC at the CAHA level continued, and in 1960 the CAHA adopted BC’s resolution to honor individuals who had served amateur hockey faithfully and made a major contribution to the sport. The first such awards were presented at the CAHA Annual Meeting in Ottawa in 1962.
With the large growth of minor hockey in British Columbia, it was decided in 1963 that there should be a BC Minor Hockey Committee set up and chaired by the Second Vice President with a delegate from each district. The Committee was charged with the responsibility of bringing forward recommendations to the AGM.
By the mid-sixties, the evolution of the game was in full swing, reflected by BC rule changes implemented to ban the golf shot (known today as the slap shot) and to mandate the wearing of helmets by minor hockey players.
Player registration continued to grow, surpassing the 15,000 mark. The Mutual Aid Fund registration topped 13,000 and would soon grow to include all referees, with BC remaining as the only Branch of the CAHA with their own accident insurance.
A referee organization was formed within the Association with the goal of providing efficient well-qualified officials for the game of hockey, and coach instructional clinics were staged for the first time in 1965 with financial assistance from the Federal Government.
The late sixties and early seventies saw the rise of Junior B hockey in BC with the formation of the Kootenay Junior B Hockey League. The league grew quickly and even included a Spokane, WA entry, the first team from the USA to operate in BC.
The Association’s growth and level of administrative sophistication grew rapidly in the seventies as the game of hockey continued its grasp on the people of BC and the rest of Canada.
The Organization also began to be viewed as a leader by other sport organizations in the province. A Development Coordinator was hired on July 1, 1972 with Wayne Hunter filling the position created to oversee the development of players, coaches and referees.
In 1974, the Secretary Manager of the Association, Ivan Temple, turned over the reigns after 20 years of service (11 as Secretary-Treasurer, seven (7) of those full time and three (3) years as President). Among his many accomplishments, Ivan gained notoriety for the design of a faceoff circle adopted by the Joint Rules Committee of the CAHA and NHL.
The staffing change was a major step for the Organization, as the business office moved from the basement of the Temple home to an office space on Fort Street in Victoria. On August 1, 1974, Don Freer became the new full time Secretary-Manager, eventually serving 27 years in the position until his retirement in 2000.
Minor hockey growth led to the need for a regulation declaring that member Associations with more than 250 players in any age division in minor hockey would be required to register two (2) teams in such division.
Eventually, after several years of study, a tier system was adopted for Midget, Bantam and Pee Wee divisions. Three (3) new cups were put up for competition in these divisions, and the Organization’s scholarship program was implemented. The “Best Ever” Player Development Program, initially financed by the provincial government, was implemented and remains to this day.
By the mid-1980s, the Association was a full fledged business operation, complete with all the trappings that go along with such ventures. Legal matters became an all too common occurrence, with players challenging the residency regulations at the minor hockey level.
Insurance issues with respect to cost, coverage and administration crept to the forefront, culminating with a decision by Hockey Canada in the mid-1990s to change their “self-insured” mandate in favor of obtaining coverage from third party providers. The safety of participants became a major focus for the Organization, as did the desire for balance between commitment to success and sportsmanship.
Association-run programming continued to grow and develop, and with the rising costs of the services provided to the membership came the corresponding demand for excellence and professionalism in those services.
The Best Ever Program started in the 1985-1986 season, replacing a male program first organized in 1979 called the Junior Olympic Program. The Junior Olympic Program started as an event that invited the best U17 athletes in the province to a summer camp to be instructed by the best skill instructors in Western Canada. There were no competitions until 1986 when Best Ever Program funding was used for District Evaluators, District camps and competition.
The first U17 BC Cup was conducted in Kamloops in 1986. The name Best Ever was actually a program established by the government in preparation for the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. BC Hockey received Province of BC granting for programs to identify and train players and personnel capable of representing BC and Canada on the national and international stage. Although the true program eventually faded, the name Best Ever was kept by BC Hockey until 1999-2000 when the name was changed to the High Performance Program, and recently changed to the Program of Excellence in 2016-2017
Although BC Hockey ran a couple of earlier Senior Female identification camps, the real introduction of the Female High Performance Program was the 1989-1990 season in preparation for the 1991 Canada Winter Games held in Prince Edward Island (PEI). The camps were interesting in the first year – very accomplished players up to the level of Junior B at attended the same camp as six (6) year olds in their first season just to get enough participants to run a camp. The older girls helped, and in some cases actually held the hand of the younger ones in drill sessions in order to get them around the ice.
The U18 Team BC eventually won a silver medal in PEI. At the time, the program would have been called Best Ever which was changed as the male program changed. The LegaciesNow program (similar to Best Ever) was created in preparation for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. A major emphasis was on the further development of female hockey programming. It was a major impetus to Female High Performance with a number of the components continuing to this day.
In 2004, BC Hockey launched the Major Midget League (MML) to provide elite level 15, 16 and 17 year old males an opportunity to play within their own age group at a high level and be developed for the next level of hockey. The league has produced over a dozen National Hockey League (NHL) draft picks and over 50 other NHL players.
Based on the success of the MML and in response to the membership’s desire to provide an opportunity for elite female hockey players to come together on zone teams to challenge other elite female Midget teams, the Female Midget AAA League (FMAAA) was formed in 2007. Since its inception, the program has had nearly 100 players move on to post-secondary hockey operations including the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) and Alberta College Athletic Association (ACAC) schools.
At the 2012 BC Hockey Annual General Meeting (AGM), members tasked the BC Hockey to review its Program Structure and at the 2013 AGM, members tasked the organization to review the BC Hockey Executive Structure. To do so, a Governance Review Committee was appointed to lead the way in the development of a new program and BC Hockey structure.
At the 2015 AGM, members voted in favor to switch from an Operational to a Policy Board. At the meeting, eight (8) Board Members and one (1) Chair of the Board were elected. The Executive Director title was changed to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to match the new structure. In addition, new committees and work groups were formed.
Today, BC Hockey oversees approximately 58,000 players, 4,600 referees, 10,300 coaches and well over 20,000 volunteers with a commitment to excellence in leading, developing and promoting positive lifelong hockey experiences.
National and International Events
BC Hockey has had the opportunity to host several national and international hockey tournaments in recent years.
The Memorial Cup, the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) National Championship, has been held four (4) times in BC; Vancouver (1977, 2007), Kamloops (1995) and Kelowna (2004). Since 1977, eight (8) BC teams have won the prestigious title.
The RBC Cup, the Junior A National Championship, has been hosted four (4) times in BC; Nanaimo (1998), Prince George (2007), Victoria (2009) and Vernon (2014). Chilliwack is set to host in 2018. Since 1996, eight (8) BC teams have won the National Championship.
The TELUS Cup, the National Male Midget Championship, has been held in BC three (3) times; Victoria (1982), Kamloops (1996) and Prince George (2001,2017) . Since 1979, only one (1) BC team has captured the TELUS Cup.
Since it started in 2009, BC has hosted the ESSO Cup, the Female Midget AAA National Championship once; Burnaby (2013).
The National Women’s U18 Championship has been held four (4) times in BC; Salmon Arm (November and January 2005), Surrey (2009) and Dawson Creek (2012).
On the international stage, BC Hockey has hosted the IIHF World Junior (U20) Championship in Vancouver, Kelowna and Kamloops (2006), the World U17 Hockey Challenge on Vancouver Island (2009) and in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John (2015) and Kamloops hosted the Four Nations Cup in 2014 and also the IIHF Women’s World Championship in 2016.
Vancouver and Victoria have been selected to host the 2019 World Junior Championship.
BC was also home to the 2010 Winter Olympics where both the men’s and women’s Canadian national hockey teams captured gold.