BCHL Today: John Grisdale stepping down and wild times in Trail

BCHL Today is a (near) daily feature providing news and notes from around the junior A world.

Welcome to the Feb. 6, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

The obvious place to start today is the news that John Grisdale is stepping down as BCHL commissioner at the end of this season.

The league released that news yesterday afternoon.

Grisdale has been the BCHL boss for 14 years, since 2003, and the league is in a pretty good place.

The best nugget from the press release was this one;

For 2017-18, there are already 120 players in the BCHL committed to NCAA Div. I hockey, more than all the other Canadian Junior A leagues combined. By the end of this season, the BCHL should top its record set in the 2016-17 season of 151 college-committed players.

I’ve talked before about the strength of the BCHL. Top players from other leagues come west and regress against better competition. Rosters for best-on-best tournaments like the World Junior A Challenge and CJHL Top Prospects Game weigh heavily in favour of the BCHL.

On the business side, under Grisdale’s watch a weak franchise in Quesnel became one of the BCHL’s flagship teams in Chilliwack and no one would argue that the addition of the Wenatchee Wild hasn’t been a huge success. There are still trouble spots around the league, franchises that spin their wheels on the ice and struggle at the gate, but the big picture looks pretty good.

If the idea is to leave something in better shape than it was when you found it, then Grisdale’s tenure has been a good one.

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Yesterday’s column featured a story about Cam Stevenson, the midget rep goaltender who was pressed into action for the Powell River Kings after starter Mitch Adamyk got injured.

Stevenson stopped 21 of 22 pucks in a 4-1 win over Powell River.

If he never sees another minute of BCHL action, he’ll be able to point to a 1.36 goals-against average and .955 save percentage.

His story got even better Monday as he earned honourable mention status as the BCHL’s Player of the Week. The award went to Wenatchee’s AJ Vanderbeck, who collected six goals and two assists in three home-ice wins for the Wild.

The future Ohio State Buckeye had two goals in a 5-2 win over Powell River. He picked up a goal and an assist in a 7-3 whomping of Coquitlam and had a four-point night (three goals and one assist) in a 7-2 dismantling of the Langley Rivermen.

Vanderbeck is 10th in league scoring with 32 goals and 54 points in 41 games. On a points-per-game basis, the Colorado native averages 1.32, which ranks fifth among the top 10 BCHL scorers behind Victoria’s Alex Newhook (1.48), Wenatchee’s Jasper Weatherby (1.48), Trail’s Kale Howarth (1.46) and Trail’s Ross Armour (1.35).

Back to the POW. In addition to Stevenson, other honourable mentions are Prince George’s Ben Poisson, Wenatchee’s Cooper Zech and Murphy Stratton, Nanaimo’s Josh Bourne, Trail’s Tyler Ghirardosi and Penticton’s Michael Campoli.

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A rare Tuesday-nighter has the Surrey Eagles visiting the West Kelowna Warriors at Royal LePage Place tonight.

The Warriors have lost two in a row, falling to the Merritt Centennials (6-3) and Salmon Arm Silverbacks (5-4) last weekend.

Since the Christmas break, WK has five wins and nine losses.

Standings wise they don’t have a ton to play for. They’ve already clinched a playoff spot, and it’s basically a matter of whether they’ll be the fifth or sixth in the Interior division. They’re fifth right now, one point up on the sixth-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

Technically, the Merritt Centennials could still catch them, but they’d have to erase a seven-point deficit to do so.

The Eagles should feel more urgency to win as they try to hold on to the second seed in the Mainland division. That would give them home-ice in the first round, but they have two teams nipping at their heels. The Langley Rivermen are just one point back (Surrey has one game in hand) and Chilliwack is five back with two games in hand.

The real trick in the Mainland is to avoid finishing fourth. Not only do you have to face the division’s top seed, but this year that means traveling to and from Prince George.

Chilliwack, who currently holds that spot, would much prefer 60 minutes to Langley or Surrey over hours and hours on a bus to PG.

Like West Kelowna, Surrey’s been an average team since Christmas, running out a record of 6-5-0-2.

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The league has handed out two suspensions.

Nanaimo’s Jordan Derymenjian is out for games four receiving a major penalty for a blow to the head and Trail’s Ryan Murphy has been slapped with a two-game ban for a check from behind delivered during last Friday’s crazy 8-1 home-ice win over Langley.

After handing out six penalties through the first 40 minutes, referees Dustin Minty and Carson Mintram had their hands full in the third period as the Rivermen and Smoke Eaters went nuts.

Murphy answered for his hit on the ice, dropping the mitts with Langley’s Trevor St. Jean. Both were booted from the game but the fireworks continued. Langley’s Sean Gulka and Trail’s Daine Dubois were assessed double roughing minors at 10:39. Langley’s Colin Bernard fought Trail’s Levi Glasman at 13:41, and somehow Gulka picked up a misconduct in that fracas.

Langley’s Jordan Dawson and Nicholas both picked up two minutes for cross-checking at 14:40, and Dawson received a misconduct.

Langley’s Jake Livingstone fought Trail’s Mack Byers at 15:37.

Langley’s Spencer Berry and Trail’s Tyler Ghirardosi picked up double roughing minors at 16:34 and Langley’s Eric Butte was flagged for slashing at 18:25.

I’m told the Rivermen had five men on their bench at the end of the game.

Thankfully, these games are increasingly rare, but they still exist, and they’re an embarrassment to the players, coaches and the league.

Side note: Two referees with mint in their last names working the same game? What are the odds?

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On the topic of fighting, I admit to buying, watching and loving Don Cherry Rock ‘Em Sock’ Em videos when I was a teenager. I idolized guys like Bob Probert, Chris Nilan, Gino Odjick and Donald Brashear, larger-than-life gladiators who represented the ultimate in toughness.

But over the last decade my views on this have changed dramatically.

The Salmon Arm Silverbacks have a post on their Facebook page today, highlighting a fight between their own Demetri Kambeitz and Penticton’s Kenny Johnson. It’s a really good throwback scrap where they’re really chucking’ em, both guys giving as good as they’re getting, and you can bet the crowd at the Shaw Centre was into it.

But I watch things like this now and I feel a bit nauseous, especially at the end when the video shifts to slow motion and you see their heads snapping back as they receive punches. With what we now know about head trauma, isn’t it time for this to stop?

There’s enough potential for brain scrambling in the game itself without adding more, and for what?

Side note: What point is there to pounding your first into a moulded plastic helmet? Does this not seem like the dumbest thing?

Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.

Email eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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