Victoria Grizzlies majority owner Walchuk named BCHL top executive

Cleve Dheensaw

Ron Walchuk has long been a champion of the Junior A brand of hockey. So it was only fitting the Victoria Grizzlies majority-owner and governor was voted the executive of the year in the B.C. Hockey League during the annual league meetings this week.

“It’s all about choices and our players like the college route,” said Walchuk.

The BCHL sent 167 players on to NCAA Div. I programs in the 2019-20 season alone.

“You get a longer runway,” said Walchuk. “Players mature at different rates and this gives you four more years. And ­university provides a ton of other opportunities in life.”

Walchuk is a member of several league committees, including the executive committee, franchise committee and futures committee. He was key in helping the league stickhandle through the pandemic.

“The last two years have been a challenge,” said Walchuk, who bought the Grizzlies in 2011.

“But now there is light at the end of the tunnel and we are revamping and retooling.

The winner was determined by a poll of league governors.

“Ron’s thoughtful contributions to multiple committees have been a major asset for the league,” Graham Fraser, ­chairman of the BCHL board of governors, said in a statement.

“[It’s a] well-deserved ­recognition.”

Meanwhile, the 2022-23 BCHL schedule will be released ­Thursday. The league said next season’s highlights will include the annual BCHL Showcase, a one-stop shopping tournament for NHL and NCAA scouts featuring all the teams, the Road Show, the Top Prospects Game and the 60th anniversary outdoor game, scheduled for ­January, after it was postponed last season due to the pandemic.

The governors also voted in favour of introducing an official policy to allow BCHL players “to report any type of abuse, harassment or discrimination they may incur while playing in the league.”

The BCHL said it will appoint a Safe Sport Officer, who will be on call and act independently from the league and its teams. Each team must also appoint an athlete advocate, who will protect the interests of the players, and be there to handle reports from the players of any incidents.

“The safety of our athletes is at the forefront of all that we do,” said BCHL executive-director Steven Cocker, in a statement.

“We have made strides in recent years to protect our players on the ice, but they need to be protected off the ice as well.”