BCHL international tour: Australia, Mexico, and South Africa

 

In our current pandemic state, many Canadians, especially British Columbians, wish they were permitted to travel. So I thought it would be fun to look through some of the international players in the BCHL – past and present.

I’ll group players on a continental basis, starting with Oceania and “Other,” so let’s hit the globe and talk about the first nine global sensations to play in the BCHL.

Down under thunder

Currently, no active players represent the Oceanic continent of Australia. However, at least six players (from what I found in my research) have defined the continent in the league’s 59 years of activity.

The first player of record to come from across the world to join the league was Glen Foll, and he joined the Bellingham Blazers in 1979 and stayed with the club when it relocated to Vancouver to become the Blue Hawks the following year. He also played one season with the New Westminister Royals.

Unfortunately, I could not find stats for Foll online during this time period. Per Elite Prospects, he registered eight points in 22 games for the Langley Eagles during the 1982-83 season. Halfway through that season, Foll joined the Salmon Arm-Shuswap Totems. He finished the season with 15 points and seven penalty minutes in 17 games for the Totems.

He then went on to a long career with the Australian national ice hockey team, captaining or co-captaining the squad from 1988-2006.

He joined the Australian Ice Hockey League in club play, first playing six seasons for the Adelaide Avalanche before spending one year with the Newcastle North Stars. Foll then opted out for the 2005-06 season.

He retired in 2019 after playing six seasons with the Adelaide Tigers in the Ice Hockey South Australia Premier League. 

The next Aussie to join the BCHL was Rob Clarke, and he did so in 1984. Clarke’s hockey playing career of record was only in the BCHL, where he played for four different clubs in four distinct seasons. In the 1984-85 season, Clarke played 29 games with Salmon Arm before joining the Langley Eagles for another 20 games.

He finished his first season with 38 points in 49 games for the two different teams. In the 1985-86 season, he returned to the Totems to play 30 games, where he netted 23 goals and 34 points. In 1986-87, he went back to the Eagles for another 17 games before heading to Richmond to finish the season with the Sockeyes.

He played 33 games for the Sockeyes in 1986-87 and exploded for 66 points. He completed his playing career in 1987-88 with the Sockeyes, where he played in a career-high 49 games and registered a career-high 85 points.

Clarke is the highest scoring Australian in BCHL history with 260 points in 178 games.

Participation award

Brad Vignon gets a round of applause because although he was born in Santa Monica, California, he proudly represented the outback continent. Sadly, this is as big as a shout-out Vignon gets because he only suited up in one game in the BCHL for the Penticton Knights during the 1987-88 season. The following season, he jumped ship to the North American Junior Hockey League.

Joey Hughes joined the BCHL at the dawn of the new millennium. Playing for the Cowichan Valley Capitals from 2000-02, Hughes registered 24 points in 95 games. He then joined the Trail Smoke Eaters from 2002-04, playing in another 106 games with 57 points.

Finally, Hughes rejoined the Caps in 2004-05 to play his final season in the league. He went off for a career-best season that year, posting 43 points in 56 games.

After that, he went on a long playing career, being featured in NCAA Division III for the College of St. Scholastica before moving home to Australia to join the Melbourne Ice of the AIHL.

Casey Minson was the second Australian to join the league during the 2000s. He played as an affiliate with the Penticton Vees in 2004-05 and produced a solid 13 points in 13 games.

Minson had a long playing career after leaving the BCHL to return home to play in Australia for the Newcastle North Stars. Minson also played in the Swiss National League and three different levels of professional hockey in Germany.

The last Aussie to join the league is Greg Bay. He joined the 2005-06 Surrey Eagles and registered two points in 42 games. Bay was a defenseman, though, so the point totals are understandable. He didn’t fare much better offensively in his second season with the Eagles, putting up four points in 32 games.

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For the 2007-08 season, Bay joined the Burnaby Express and started to come into his own. He produced his first double-digit point total with 17 points in 51 games. In his final season in the league in 2008-09, Bay put up a career-high 24 points in 56 games with the Express. Based on my research, an Australian player hasn’t skated in the BCHL since.

The whole country behind them

These three individuals have honoured their nation by being some of the only players to have played from these regions meaning they have a whole country behind them.

We already know thousands of players have played in the BCHL from Canada and the United States. Mexico gets taken out of the North American conversation because there’s no need to cover North America as a whole because the number is overwhelming.

Starting out, these two Mexican skaters are shockingly the foremost players of a prominent Latin American country.

The first-ever Mexican player of record to play in the BCHL was Tyler Chavez-Leech. Chavez-Leech joined the league in the 2014-15 season and played for the Vernon Vipers as an affiliate.

Only playing in two games, Chavez-Leech didn’t play in the BCHL for two seasons before signing as an affiliate with the West Kelowna Warriors in 2016-17. He got into another two games and didn’t register any regular season points, but did get his only BCHL point in that season’s playoffs.

The other player from Mexico only played during one season. Defenseman Kevin Pierce suited up for two games for the Penticton Vees in the 2015-16 season. He did not record any points as an affiliate player and spent most of his career playing junior B.

Finally, representing Africa is a 1999-born gent named Simon Snyman. Snyman was born in Johanessburg, South Africa, but migrated to Canada to play hockey in 2014. His sole appearance in the BCHL came in in the 2016-17 season when he suited up for two games with the Trail Smoke Eaters as an affiliate player.

I will dive into players who have played in the BCHL with Asian heritage in the next article. I can assure you that China and Japan are covered, but there are a few that may surprise you!