The 1970's, the British Columbia Junior Hockey League's second decade of existence, began on a bad note, with the loss of two teams, the Victoria Cougars and New Westminster Royals but finished with league membership at an all-time high of thirteen clubs. In between, thirteen clubs received expansion franchises, six relocated and another seven ceased operations as the league struggled in some communities but thrived in others.
Also, following the designation of Major Junior and Junior "A" Hockey, the Junior "A" clubs were no longer eligible to compete for the Memorial Cup. Hence, a new trophy, The Manitoba Centennial Trophy was presented to the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) by the Manitoba Amateur Hockey Association to commemorate their centennial year of 1970. The Centennial Cup, as it was known was presented to Canada's Junior "A" National Champion for the 1971 Championship.
With the creation of Major Junior and Junior "A" Divisions of competition, the Victoria Cougars jumped ship from the BCJHL to join the Western Hockey League as a Major Junior franchise. Meantime, the New Westminster Royals were forced out of their home by the Estevan Bruins of the WCHL, leaving the BCJHL with just six teams for the 1971/1972 season causing an elimination of Divisions with-in the league.
However, the league rebounded for the 1972-73 season, adding the Bellingham Blazers and Nanaimo Clippers, re-establishing the Divisional system and never operating with fewer than eight teams ever again. It was also, the end of the Vancouver Villas as they folded after the '73 playoffs.
The Langley Lords were the cinderella team of the 1973-74 season, thier inaugural year. Not only did they end up tied for second, along with the Penticton Broncos with 78 points, they also had a long playoff run. The Lords, having previously defeated the Nanaimo Clippers and Bellingham Blazers, were finally stopped by the Kelowna Buckaroos who then claimed the Nat Bailey Cup.
The Nanaimo Clippers won three straight BCJHL crowns in 1976, 1977 and 1978, but only challenged once for the Centennial Cup, in 1977, when they were swept in a best-of-five Provincial Championship Series by the Richmond Sockeyes of the upstart P.A.C. (Pacific) "A" Hockey League.
A year earlier, 1976, the BCJHL chose not to enter the National Playdowns, conceding the Provincial Championship, the Mowat Cup, to the P.A.C. "A" Champions, the Nor Wes Caps. The Caps then chose not to compete in the BC vs AB regional series and the second place Richmond Soceyes of the PAC"A"HL were chosen by the BCAHA to enter the National Playdowns.
The wildest possible finish to the BCJHL season occurred during the 1977/1978 season, a year in which there were two Champions but no Championship Series. Opting to return to the Centennial Cup Playoffs, the BCJHL sent the Regular Season Champion Merritt Centennials into Inter-Provincial play. Merritt swept Richmond to win the Provincial Title, and then defeated the Calgary Cowboys, before falling to the eventual Centennial Cup Champion Prince Albert Raiders in the Abbott Cup (Western Canada) Final. Meanwhile, the rest of the BCJHL carried on its post-season without Merritt.
Coastal Division Champion Nanaimo Clippers met the Interior Champions Penticton Vees in the BCJHL, Final. However, the series ended after only three games when the Vees refused to continue, citing Nanaimo's rough play. The Clippers were awarded their third straight Championship, but according to former Nanaimo coach Larry McNabb, his team could have gained more. "It was a disaster," recalled McNabb. "We split two games in Penticton, and then we had a brawl in game three. Penticton's coach pulled his team off the ice, but they started it. We were declared the winner, but the problem was, I was getting 2,000 fans a game. We won a Championship, but lost money. We got robbed!"
Playoff revenue was how many teams balanced the budget in the 1970's. Budgets were in the neighborhood of $70,000.00 a year, with coaches pulling in a few hundred dollars a month.
The BCJHL's second decade ended with the demise of the PAC. "A" League as former members Coquitlam Comets, Nor Wes Caps, Richmond Sockeyes and Vancouver Blue Hawks joined the senior circuit over a two-year span.
With the granting of an expansion franchise to the Cowichan Valley Capitals, the league's presence on Vancouver Island had doubled. While stability was lacking and franchise shuffling became an annual event, now at 13 teams, the BCJHL offered the province's young players two choices, a route to Major Junior or College Hockey.
Below you will find a brief overview of the each season in the 1970's.