The 100 Mile House Wranglers will be competing as a Junior A team during the 2023/2024 hockey season.
On Tuesday, July 25 the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League announced that all 20 of its clubs have been reclassified as Junior A, Tier 2 by the BC Hockey Board of Directors. This unanimous decision will allow KIJHL teams to compete for a national championship in future seasons.
“This marks a tremendous day for the KIJHL and for all BC Hockey members who aspire to play junior hockey,” KIJHL Commissioner Jeff Dubois said. “We already have an outstanding group of 20 member clubs that operate at a high level on-and-off the ice. Operating under the Junior A Tier 2 designation with the opportunity to pursue Tier 1 membership in the future, will help ensure that our league becomes even more of a destination for players who want to pursue their goals as student-athletes.”
Wranglers president Greg Aiken remarked this move will be positive for the whole league. While he said there will doubtless be some roadblocks to overcome, he’s excited to see the Wranglers play at a Junior A level.
“It’s going to take us a few years to raise our level to where we want to be to compete at the Junior A championships but we’re excited about it,” Aiken said.
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Wranglers coach and general manager Dale Hladun said it will be tough to know the effect this move has for a while yet. With the hockey season a little over a month away, he joked they’ll only really have time to change their logo and business cards to read ‘Junior A.’
“I don’t think a lot has really changed,” Hladun said. “I can certainly see, after this season, a lot of changes happening. The league being tiered, what the new playoff structure is going to be, really noticeable changes.”
The reclassification of the KIJHL means that there will be new opportunities for players to develop their skills within BC Hockey. The Wranglers and the other teams will be subject to BC Hockey’s internal tiering structure, with all teams starting at Tier 2.
“We’re excited about the opportunities this new pathway will create for junior hockey players in B.C. and Yukon,” Stephanie White, Chair of the Board of Directors at BC Hockey, said. “Having these teams dedicate themselves to raised standards, first to Junior A Tier 2, and eventually Junior A Tier 1 for some, will provide more of our talented players with a better player experience at the highest level in our province.”
With its new status, the KIJHL will now be working more closely with the Western Hockey League and the Canadian Junior Hockey League. This means it will have a place in Hockey Canada’s Canadian Development Model, which aims to strengthen the game at elite levels.
“The WHL is very pleased to see the progress BC Hockey and their members are making in building a new Junior A opportunity in the province of B.C.,” WHL Commissioner Ron Robison stated. “The WHL looks forward to working closely with BC Hockey and their members as the new Junior A pathway is introduced and to the positive impact it will have in strengthening relations with leagues at all levels in the Canadian hockey system.”
As part of its original application to B.C. Hockey, the KIJHL made several commitments to increase its operating standards and provide players with an enhanced experience. Dubois said these include cooperation with an independent advisory board, an enhanced dedication to engaging with grassroots hockey across B.C. and the Yukon and creating a structure to ensure teams that achieve the Junior A Tier 1 classification are ready to compete on a national level.
Dubois noted one of their most important commitments is increasing the number of home-grown players in the KIJHL. They have a three-year plan to increase the number of players from B.C. and the Yukon from 44 per cent in the 2022/2023 season to 52 per cent by the 2025/2026 season.
“During this process, we looked at the number of players who have left B.C. over the past number of years to play Junior A hockey elsewhere in Canada and the United States,” Dubois said. “Our goal is to provide the type of athlete experience that incentivizes those athletes to grow and develop their game without having to look outside their home province.”
Aiken and Hladun said keeping their roster local won’t be a problem for the Wranglers. Most of their players are already from the province and they try to recruit from the South Cariboo as much as possible.
Hladun added that since the announcement, he’s already begun to receive texts and emails from players interested in coming to 100 Mile House.
“I think kids will now look at our league differently. A lot of our guys (in the league now) aspire to go to those higher levels and they leave the province to do it so I think a lot of guys will now decide to stay,” Hladun said. “Even in our roster, I sense that a few more guys are going to stay another year, so I think our team will be stronger because of it.”
The 2023/24 KIJHL regular season schedule and additional information will be announced in the coming weeks. Hladun added the Wrangler’s open tryouts are from Aug. 25 - 27 at the South Cariboo Rec Centre. Those interested in joining the team can go to 100milewranglers.com.