It’s a change that should put B.C. teams on similar footing as Ontario – but will primarily create more parity and stability at home first.
The directors of the B.C. Lacrosse Association held their AGM on the weekend, and voted overwhelmingly, by a 63-6 margin, to create a five-year junior program and fold the intermediate divisions.
From New West’s vantage point, this was a move long overdue.
“It’s a long time coming and a great idea,” New West junior A president Walt Weaver said. “The junior B program will be a true feeder program for the junior A team, and players have an opportunity to spend five years together, as they do in Ontario.”
Although Weaver didn’t attend the meeting due to the birth of his seventh grandchild, the New West delegation supported the motion, proposed by a junior B proponent.
Weaver said while some view that the change will help boost B.C.’s chances in competing against Ontario for Minto and Founders cup national titles, that wasn’t the prime motivation.
“That’s a whole different topic,” said Weaver. “Ontario has been a lot more aggressive in using the trade deadline to stack teams, for want of a better term. ... The whole goal of creating these tiers in junior B is to develop players over five years.”
Junior B’s tier 1 division would replace the current intermediate model, while tier 2 would replicate the previous junior B division. The third tier would be a depth league.
Organizations that operated at the junior B and intermediate levels last year would be eligible to play in one of the tiers, with mobility amongst the tiers possible after each season.
Burnaby Lakers junior president Brad Hara said the move should give his program a boost.
“It certainly should make it easier for us when it comes to player movement and especially in player retention,” Hara said.
In recent years, the Lakers program has seen a considerable drop in registration when players age out of the midget division.
He said the proposal, which in the past had been rejected, was given a healthy debate and ended in the 63-6 vote at the AGM.
“I think its been talked about for a number of years, but past attempts always came from the junior A level,” Hara said.
This time the motion came forward from the junior B level, demonstrating that it wasn’t just the higher division trying to set rules for others to follow.
As of now, the B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League will remain unchanged, with a moratorium on expansion set to expire after 2018. An earlier request to relocate the PoCo Saints to Maple Ridge was rejected.
Hara said, with three junior B tiers, elite players graduating from midget will get an opportunity to try out for junior A positions, but the vast majority of 16-year-old midget graduates will start in the B-1 or B-3 tiers.
Minor association registration was fairly stagnant for both Burnaby and New West last year. The ’Bellies
program drew 428 players, while Burnaby saw 405 players. Coquitlam, which for the past two decades was the largest minor association by player numbers, dropped to No. 2 as Maple Ridge surpassed it, with 708 players to 675.
Hara said it will take time for junior B clubs to grow, but he anticipates the Lakers program will benefit.
“I think the impact won’t be known for a while, but I believe everybody will benefit in having a five-year program. It’s quite a change.”