The 2018 RBC Cup marks the end of an era in the B.C. Hockey League, with
long-time commissioner John Grisdale set to leave the organization after 15
years in charge.
Grisdale, who played 250 games with Toronto and Vancouver during a six-year
NHL career in the 1970s, took over as commissioner in the summer of 2003
and has helped shape the league into a cornerstone of the CJHL during his
tenure, including five RBC Cup championships for BCHL teams.
When it was announced Feb. 5 that this season would be his last, the CJHL
was quick to appoint him a Life Member and introduced the John Grisdale
Award, to be presented to the highest-drafted CJHL player taken each year
in the NHL Entry Draft.
“His vision and willingness to work with all elements of the game have
contributed greatly to the success of both the BCHL and the CJHL, as well
as gaining him the utmost respect of his colleagues,” CJHL president Brent
Ladds said when announcing the award.
HockeyCanada.ca sat down with Grisdale in Chilliwack to look back on the
last 15 years, and look ahead to the future.
HC: Why is now the right time to leave?
JG: It has been 15 years. It has been a part of my life where a lot of good
things have happened, and it’s time to move on. It’s time for me to do
other things, and I’m looking forward to that.
HC: What are you most proud of from your time with the BCHL?
JG: The evolution of the league. It has always been a good league, but we
have been able to really put the focus on all of our programs and
regulations, and streamline the experience. When a player moves from one
team to another, the only things that change are the rink and the
community, but everything else stays the same. We standardized that,
players got full value, and more and more of them wanted to come to the
HC: What is the biggest change to the BCHL, and to the Junior A game?
JG: We’ve got a good, solid organization, and I think that the programs
everybody is running are fairly standard and fairly close, so that’s the
biggest thing. On the ice, skill has come back to the game. We have rid
ourselves of a lot of the bullying and violence that were in junior hockey,
and we’re seeing smaller, more skilled players having a place to succeed.
HC: What are the benefits of playing Junior A hockey?
JG: Junior A offers a kid that is maybe a late bloomer an opportunity to
grow, play a little bit later, and now they can go to school, get an
education, develop until they’re in their early 20s, and for some kids
that’s a good opportunity. And if it doesn’t work out, they can always go
in another direction.
HC: How much do alumni like Turris, Bozak and Jost help in the
promotion of the league?
JG: Those players all made choices to play Junior A, whatever their reasons
were, so when they succeed, when they move onto college and then onto the
pros, it just creates that perception that Junior A hockey, and the B.C.
Hockey League, are good places to develop and chase dreams to the highest
level. One of the things I have always felt is that if you create a great
program, and when you have 17 of them that produce players like Turris and
Bozak, for example, the league gets the reputation it’s a good league, and
players come because they want to emulate what they did.
HC: What has hockey given you?
JG: As a player, it gave me the opportunity play something I grew up
loving, and chase my dream. As a coach and a parent, it gave me the
opportunity to see my son grow, taught him values on and off the ice, and
taught him to be responsible in the community. And as an administrator of a
junior hockey league, it gave me the opportunity see kids achieve and grow.
I still talk to former players, and to their parents, and it is always such
a thrill to see where they have gone in life, and what they have
HC: What comes next?
JG: I’ve got a few things I’ve been contemplating. I’d really like to look
at some of the health issues that our players face, things like concussions
and mental health issues, and try to work with programs like that that can
provide assistance to players who need it.