The Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) is a Canadianjuniorice hockey league which operates in the Lower mainland of British Columbia. Although the PJHL has included American teams in the past, the league's ten franchises all currently reside in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. Several National Hockey League stars began their junior hockey careers in the PJHL, but the main focus of the league is player development and education with strong ties to the local hockey community. The PJHL Championship is awarded annually to the league playoff champion and the winner moves on to compete against the champions of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League and the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League for the British Columbia Provincial Title, the Cyclone Taylor Cup. The winner of the Cyclone Taylor Cup moves on to compete for the Western Canada Junior "B" Crown, the Keystone Cup.
The origins of the Pacific Junior Hockey League date back to 1965 when teams from Chilliwack, Burnaby, Grandview and Coquitlam created a Juvenile/Junior league for local players who wanted to continue to play competitive hockey. One year later the West Coast Junior Hockey League was officially formed with six teams, including the Grandview Steelers who continue today as the league's oldest franchise.
The first ever League Championship was won in 1967 by the Richmond Juniors, but the formative years of the WCJHL were dominated by the Nor Wes Caps who claimed the West Coast Junior Championship four times in the first seven seasons. The Caps were among a group of teams that chose to leave the league in the mid 1970s, to form a junior A circuit, and new franchises quickly jumped in to replace them. It was during this time that several WCJHL mainstays, including the North Shore Flames and Seattle's Northwest Americans joined the league. Two strong teams, the Burnaby Blazers and Richmond Rebels, won Championships in the late 70's, but both teams eventually had to be relocated.
The Northwest Americans won their first Championship in 1976, but really became the WCJHL's dominant franchise in 1980, when they won the first of three straight League Championships. The Americans won a total of five titles between 1976 and 1986. The WCJHL's next dynasty team was the North Shore Flames, who also won three Championships in a row from 1983-1985. In fact from 1980 to 1986 the Americans and Flames were the only teams to claim the WCJHL title. By the late 80's the Burnaby Bluehawks and White Rock Whalers had etched their name's on the Championship trophy, but neither franchise could make a go of it and relocated to other cities. The late 80's also saw the Port Coquitlam Buckeroos admitted to the league, and the Mission Pilots relocated to Abbotsford where they quickly claimed the WCJHL crown.
The Richmond Sockeyes joined the league in 1990, and before the start of the 1992-93 season the Flames relocated from the North Shore Winter Club to Maple Ridge. Also in 1992, the WCJHL underwent a name change and emerged as the Pacific International Junior Hockey League. The league appeared to be thriving, with eight teams in strong markets, but by the mid 90's the WCJHL had shrunk to six franchises, with just five of them located in the lower-mainland. The PIJHL, after three seasons as a six team circuit, added the Delta Ice Hawks in 1997. The Northwest Americans exited the league at the end of the 98-99 season and, apart from a two year experiment with the Washington Totems, brought about the end to the 'International' era of PIJHL history.
In 2002 a franchise was relocated to North Delta and the modern look of lower-mainland junior hockey began to take shape. Following the 2005-06 season, the Hope Icebreakers and Port Coquiltam Buckaroos relocated to their current homes of Mission and Port Moody. Those moves, followed a year later by expansion franchises in Squamish and Aldergrove, grew the league to ten teams and allowed the PIJHL to convert to the current two conference system. The relocation of the Squamish franchise to North Vancouver and a minor adjustment to the name of the league (PIJHL to PJHL) has the league moving forward with the same franchise locations and alignment for the third straight season.
Since 2000, the league has seen more stability and parity, with the majority of its current franchises having been located in their current cities for many years. Still, while the league Championship has been won by five different clubs during this era, the bulk of the titles have been claimed by three very successful franchises. The Richmond Sockeyes have won five PJHL Championships since 2000, followed closely by Abbotsford and Delta, with four and three respectively. The Pacific Junior Hockey League, as a whole, has won seven of the last eleven Cyclone Taylor Cups (BC Champion) and three of the past five Keystone Cups (National Champion).