West Kelowna Warriors ink two European players as BCHL enters new era

Warriors historic signings

The West Kelowna Warriors made history Thursday announcing the signing of the first European players in team history.

The BCHL team made the announcement Thursday, the same day the league began operating under its own set of rules.

Those include an allowance for two European players per team.

The Warriors announced the addition of four players Thursday including Swedish forward Viggo Nordström and Norwegian forward Johannes Løkkeberg.

Nordström, entering his 20-year-old season, spent the last two seasons with the under-20 junior team in the Lulea Hockey Federation.

In 43 games last season he put up 16 goals and 32 assists. He served as team captain last season.

He's committed to Bowling Green for the 2024-2025 season.

“I felt pretty early that West Kelowna was the place for me to play this season," said Nordström,

“I think it is a great opportunity for me to develop with help from the coaching staff and playing for a winning team. I think the BCHL should fit my playing style as well which made my decision easy.”

Løkkeberg, 19, played three seasons with Mora IK in the U-20 Swedish Nationell League. In 45 games last season, he amassed 12 goals and 24 assists.

He also had one assist in five games at the 2023 World Junior Division 1A championship, helping Norway to promotion into the main pool of the World Junior Championships.

The Warriors also announced the signing of forwards Callum Hughes (17) and Caden Kemkaran-Humble (18).

Hughes, a New Jersey native, spent last season at Mount St. Charles Academy, scoring 14 goals and 42 assists in 39 games.

Kemkaran-Humble, with the U-18 Calgary Buffaloes in the Alberta Elite Hockey League. Last season, the 6'5, 181 pounder collected 17 goals and 21 assists in 33 games.

All four are expected to arrive in West Kelowna in time for the start of training camp Sept. 1.

New roster rules kick in June 1 when the BCHL officially becomes an independent league

BCHL officially go it alone

The BC Hockey League will begin operating under a new set of rules when the new "league year" kicks in Thursday.

That's when the league's status as an independent league kicks in following its decision earlier this month to break away from Hockey Canada.

The new rules announced Wednesday centre around roster construction and key dates.

Some of the key changes pertain to player eligibility most notably opening roster to out-of-province players under the age of 18 while also requiring the 17 Canadian-based teams to still carry a minimum of five B.C. born players.

“During this process, it has always been extremely important to us to maintain our connection with young athletes in British Columbia and to continue prioritizing their development,” said BCHL commissioner Steven Cocker.

“We committed to keeping the same roster minimums around B.C. based players and to strengthen the definition of who qualifies as a homegrown player.

"We are excited to open up our rosters to 16 and 17-year-olds from out of province, as well as international athletes, but the BCHL will always remain committed to B.C. born and raised players.”

Because the league is no longer under the Hockey Canada banner, players in other leagues such as Junior B, the BC Major Midget or sport school leagues which are registered with Hockey Canada, will no longer be eligible to serve as affiliated players.

Instead, the league will expand rosters to 25 from the present 22 with an additional spot available for teams wishing to carry three goaltenders.

A maximum of eight affiliated registrations are also permitted per team from any independent minor, youth or high school league in North America.

Teams will also be able to dress a maximum of 21 players per game including 19 skaters and two goaltenders.

Another major change will give teams the ability to roster up to two players from outside of North America. Those players have previously not been allowed to play in the BCHL.

However, players from Russia and Belarus are not allowed to play at the present time due to the political situation in Russia.

Along with five B.C. players, teams will be required to carry a minimum of 13 Canadian players while U.S. teams will be required to carry 13 Americans.

Teams must also roster at least three players under the age of 18 and four rookies.

The trade deadline has also been moved from Jan. 10 to Feb. 10. The signing deadline is March 1.

Penticton Vees announce former player joining staff as assistant coach

Vees hire alumnus for coach

The Penticton Vees announced a new coach joining their staff on Wednesday whose very familiar with the team.

Mark MacMillan, who played for his hometown Vees team in 2010-11 has been hired as an assistant coach.

The Vees also announced Steve Cawley will be stepping away from the bench and transitioning into a senior management position, as the team’s assistant general manager & director of scouting.

“I am very excited to have Mark join our staff, as he checked all the boxes of what I was looking for in this position,” Vees’ president, general manager & head coach Fred Harbinson said in a press release.

“As an alum Mark will be able to relate to our players as he utilized the BCHL as a platform to develop, be drafted to the NHL, and move on to the NCAA and pro hockey. The development of our players from September to May has always been a cornerstone of our success year after year. His addition will ensure this trend continues.”

MacMillan joins the Vees after spending the last year and a half as general manager & head coach of the Summerland Steam in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL). He played two seasons in the BCHL, with one season with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

“Having played for the Vees and watching the success the organization has had over the years, I am very excited to join the coaching staff,” MacMillan said. “I am looking forward to sharing my experiences both as a player and a coach with our team to aid in their development as players and people.”

MacMillan made the transition behind the bench when he was hired to lead the Summerland Steam in October 2021. There the team earned back-to-back playoff appearances in his two seasons in the KIJHL.

The Vees organization said they are excited to welcome MacMillan and his family back into the fold.

Overtime will be extended five minutes beginning next season

BCHL extending overtime

The BC Hockey League is making changes to the way it decides games in overtime.

Beginning in the 2023-2024 season, three-on-three overtime will be extended to 10 minutes.

Presently, overtime is just five minutes with games going to a shootout if a winner isn't declared during the extra period.

The league says the change is being made in an attempt to limit the number of games requiring a shootout.

Under the previous five-minute overtime format, the league says 41.5 per cent of games required a shootout.

The change to the overtime format was the only rule change to come out of the recently concluded annual general meeting.

The big off-ice news announced previously is a shift in roles for Chris Hebb.

Hebb is moving into the role of Chief Executive Officer with a focus on the future of the BCHL through "big picture opportunities and alliances."

Steven Cocker will fill the role of commissioner previously held by Hebb, managing league operations.

Penticton Vees forward announces commitment to Minnesota State University, heads to NCAA Division l

Vees forward headed to uni

Another member of the Penticton Vees has secured a spot in the NCAA Division l, announcing he's headed to Minnesota State University for the 2023-24 season.

The team shared the announcement on Saturday as Brett Moravec (’03) finished off his two seasons in Penticton. Moravec won back-to-back British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) Fred Page Cup championships.

This season, the 20-year-old earned 57 points (29G-28A) in 54 regular season games. Moravec was fourth on the team in goals. In 103 career regular-season games, the Vees said he managed to amass 51 goals and 98 points.

Moravec also tallies 29 points (13G-16A) in 34 career playoff games.

Originally hailing from Airdrie, AB, he is one of 19 players on the Vees’ roster from the 2022-23 season to have secured an NCAA Division l commitment.

Moravec was originally committed to Wisconsin but now joins the Mavericks under new Head Coach, Luke Strand.

2023-24 Season Tickets are on sale for as little as $11 per game. To purchase Season Tickets, email [email protected] or phone 250-493-VEES (8337).

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