Coaches around the B.C. Hockey League breathed a sigh of relief at the rule changes implemented by the circuit's board of governors earlier at its annual meeting earlier this month.
The source of the coaches' collective brighter mood is an amendment that increases each team's roster by one player. Last season the league opted to pare rosters to a bare bones 21 players - just one more than the maximum allowed to dress for each game.
That move created a ton of headaches as it robbed teams of depth and put affiliate players in a tough spot trying to fill in for injured veterans late in the season or in the playoffs.
For the 2012-13 campaign, each team will carry 22 players on the roster - enough to work through rough patches when injuries inevitably crop up.
"When the roster went down to 21 it was one of those things where the rule looked good on paper in a business sense," said Surrey Eagles coach Matt Erhart.
"But as the season went on, everyone realized it was the wrong decision. With only one extra body on the roster, it created a lot of adversity in the event a team ran into injury problems. There were a lot of nights when teams had less than 20 players dressed even when they called up affiliate players. I think 22 is the right number because that means each team can carry one extra forward and one extra defenceman. Hopefully teams will use that extra player card on young, local players and develop them with that extra spot on the roster."
The league's governors also adopted a significant reworking of its two conferences. The Coastal Conference has been once again split into Mainland and Island divisions with Prince George and Chilliwack moving out of the Interior Conference to join Surrey, Langley and Coquitlam in the Mainland grouping. Four out of five teams in both the Island and Mainland divisions will qualify for the playoffs.
"It may seem strange to add a team like Prince George to our division that is located so far away but so far the scheduling looks pretty good," Erhart said. "I know we have one doubleheader up there and we're able to drive home right after the Saturday game and get back early in the morning.
"It's actually cheaper to have Prince George in our division than playing in a division with all the Island teams. That means we won't be stuck on the Island as much with hotel and ferry costs, which can get really costly."
One other major change is a reduction in the number of games to be played, dropping to 54 from the usual 60 played by each team. The move was made to concentrate the bulk of the games played by BCHL teams to Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
"The best thing for us is the elimination of most of the midweek games; I think we only have one this year plus a couple of holiday games," Erhart said. "With most of our games being played on weekends, we can have more structure to our weeks, plus we'll have more home games on Friday and Sunday, which is good for us."
The BCHL will kick-off the 2012-13 season with a showcase tournament for all teams in Chilliwack Sept. 7-9.