The Vernon Vipers will be seeing more of the Prince George Spruce Kings as the B.C. Hockey League has announced the Spruce Kings and expansion Cranbrook Bucks will move into the Interior Division for 2020-21. (Morning Star - file photo)

Vernon Vipers OK with realignment

Prince George and expansion Cranbrook added to BCHL Interior Conference for 2020-21

The Vernon Vipers have no problem with realignment.

The BCHL board of governors held its semi-annual meeting Jan. 23 and approved a new configuration for the 2020-21 season.

With the expansion Cranbrook Bucks beginning their inaugural campaign next year, the board voted in favour of changing to a two-conference system with nine teams on each side.

The Coastal Conference will consist of the current Island and Mainland Division teams, minus the Prince George Spruce Kings, who move back to the Interior Conference along with the Bucks.

“More travel costs is definitely a concern with Prince George and Cranbrook coming into the Interior Conference,” Vernon Vipers executive vice-president Todd Miller said. “But it’s a move that makes sense geographically speaking.”

Added BCHL executive director Steven Cocker: “With Cranbrook coming into the league next year, the league and the board recognized the need to alter our current divisional alignment. The new format makes the most sense geographically and is a logical step for the future of the BCHL.”

READ MORE: Prince George sweeps Vernon Vipers in BCH; final

The league has also announced that it is moving from a 58-game schedule to 54, as well as a later start date in September.

“The decision to reduce our games next season to 54 was a difficult move, but with our league mandate around player safety, we see this as what’s best for the development of our players,” Cocker said. “This will also result in fewer three-in-three weekends and proper rest between games in order to maximize time for practice and recovery.

READ MORE: Cranbrook Bucks expansion franchise joins BCHL

“Another important component of the schedule was getting out of the month of August. Our camps will now open in early September with season openers at the end of the month. We feel this will best serve our athletes in their out-of-season development.”

The board also voted to slightly alter the playoff format for this season by having the two crossover teams re-seed in the Interior Division based on their point totals, rather than being put into the seventh and eight slots automatically.

Next season, the league will change formats with the top eight teams in each conference qualifying for the post-season.

“The league had to come up with a regular playoff format,” Miller said. “We’ve been having a revolving door of different formats over the years.”

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