AJHL / BCHL Frequently Asked Questions
This decision wasn’t made lightly, but it was made out of a fundamental interest in competitive integrity and safety.
The BCHL’s mid-season announcement that five of our clubs were defecting to play unsanctioned hockey was an unusual and unprecedented situation for the AJHL, made more challenging by the fact that the decision was announced in the middle of the season, with no advance notice to the AJHL’s leadership or remaining teams. We immediately began working with our partners – including the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL), Hockey Canada, and Hockey Alberta – to evaluate a path forward that was in the best interest of all parties. Working with these and other stakeholders, we determined that removing games between defecting teams and core AJHL teams was the best way to protect the competitive integrity of the AJHL and CJHL playoff system and to ensure the safety of our players and officials.
The defection of any team to an unsanctioned league could open the AJHL up to serious liability and insurance issues, as the departing club would be immune from facing long-term consequences for on-ice disciplinary matters. For instance, players moving on to a different sanctioned league would still be required to serve their suspensions during the following season; players moving to an unsanctioned league would be able to ignore that punishment.
We also wanted to ensure the integrity of the broader CJHL post-season. Apart from the AJHL’s own concerns, the eligibility of the five teams to participate in the Centennial Cup also came under immediate review by the CJHL, the body which organizes the tournament to crown a national champion. The highly unusual mid-season announcement also created a challenge for the CJHL, with participation by the defecting teams potentially having an adverse impact on the AJHL’s ability to participate in this year’s edition of the Centennial Cup.
Yes, one that would protect our fundamental interest in competitive integrity and safety. The AJHL has bylaws with clear requirements, timelines and steps to follow for any club wishing to depart the AJHL. After the initial BCHL announcement, the AJHL asked the five defecting clubs for clarity on their plans, and immediately began an investigation in order to gather facts and find a solution.
Pending the outcome of the investigation, the AJHL was prepared to provide the five teams with the option to formally commit to the 2024-25 season and continue playing out this season as scheduled, or, alternatively, to continue playing an extended schedule within a pool of five for the remainder of the season – just as they are now doing.
Following the BCHL’s mid-season announcement on January 20, the AJHL began an investigation to gather all of the facts in order to make an informed decision about how best to move forward. The investigation process set out in the rules of the AJHL dictates the investigation timeline. While the investigation was underway, the five teams did a number of things that added to the confusion and difficulty for players, their families and the league:
First, they issued a joint statement on January 25 claiming that the BCHL announcement was false, and that there was no agreement to join that league. This statement was contradicted by a previous media statement from a defecting team President that an agreement was indeed in place, as well as several team announcements on social media.
Then, four of the five teams chose to not participate in a meeting with the AJHL that was part of the investigation and intended to provide them with an opportunity to tell their side of the story. Finally, on February 1, all five teams reversed their position and admitted that they did in fact have an agreement with the BCHL, and would be joining that unsanctioned league effective immediately.
The future of the AJHL has never been brighter, even in the face of the disappointing actions by the five defecting teams and the BCHL.
The eleven teams at the core of the league have expressed their strong support for the AJHL and their commitment to Alberta. Furthermore, we’ve been humbled and honoured by the expressions of interest we’ve received in recent weeks from communities across Alberta. We’ve had requests and questions about expansion pouring in from former NHL players, AJHL alumni, and prominent business and hockey leaders around the province.
The AJHL Board of Governors is presently reviewing its options and will look to make an announcement on league expansion later this Spring.
The AJHL is the premier developmental league in Canada for student-athletes striving to capitalize on their athletic and academic abilities. AJHL players can advance to the NCAA, CHL, USports and pro hockey without any limitations.
The AJHL also provides in-season development opportunities for prospects to affiliate and advance directly from the Alberta Elite AAA Hockey League (AEHL), Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) and all sanctioned Junior leagues in Canada.
Our athletes have unlimited opportunities to join other prominent provincial, national and international programs throughout the year with Hockey Alberta, Team Canada, the WHL and Canadian Hockey League (CHL). These opportunities are only available for players in sanctioned hockey.
Participating in unsanctioned hockey restricts an individual’s competitive options. Anyone who participates in an unsanctioned league is ineligible to join or affiliate with any sanctioned hockey for the remainder of the season, which includes teams in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) and those that vie for spots at National Championships.
No. Through a partnership with Hockey Canada, the Centennial Cup crowns the best CJHL team in Canada each season. The 2025 tournament will be hosted in a community that has a team in good standing with the CJHL.
The AJHL will work diligently to keep the 2025 Centennial Cup in Alberta.