Q&A: Len McNeely

PJHL Media

Behind the scenes, the PJHL is directed by a team of dedicated individuals who are committed to excellence and ensuring the PJHL offers a positive developmental environment within each franchise. One individual who has been part of the league and a parent, fan and now executive member is Len McNeely who caught up recently on his role, his appreciation for a Jr. B hockey league that continues to develop great hockey players and well-rounded young men, and what he sees for the league in seasons to come.

PJHL: As PJHL Executive Vice President, what kind of tasks are you handling each week?
Len McNeely: The things I handle have to be looked at on an annual and seasonal basis.  I maintain the books for the PJHL Society, contribute to the development of the annual budget, and monitor all team roster transactions through the HCR (Hockey Canada registry) to ensure league registration fees and player refunds are completed in a timely manner. We are always working on new initiatives to improve the PJHL that require input and interaction with team ownership. This is an ongoing process. During the season, I watch several games on FloHockey to keep in touch with the quality of the product on the ice.

In my time here, nine seasons, I have reported to President Ray Stonehouse, and currently Commissioner Trevor Alto. Ray oversaw the league with a great deal of passion and commitment and Trevor has brought a lot of new initiatives to the PJHL that continue to raise the bar. I have an accounting background and a Master of Business Administration so when I joined the PJHL, I brought that level of professionalism with me. I am semi-retired, which means my time is flexible. I can adjust my schedule to meet the demands of the position. And as long as I have that flexibility, and feel that I am adding value, I am pleased to be involved with the league.

PJHL: You’ve been with the PJHL for a long time. Why do you stay involved?
LM: I joined the PJHL in the 2015-16 season after 10 years with the Burnaby Winter Club (BWC). My experience with the league before that point was mainly as a parent as I have two sons, now 38 and 36, who played here. Ryan, my oldest played for four years in the league and still counts it as one of his most memorable experiences. My younger son Tyler used his one season as a stepping stone to Junior A, a college scholarship at Northeastern in Boston and a pro career in Germany that has lasted 11 years.

While at BWC, I frequently spoke up for the PJHL and its importance to be part of the BWC hockey community. Not everyone goes to the NHL, yet some folks see that as the only destination. I am a member of a strong team leading the PJHL. The Governors Steering Committee and Trevor Alto have done an excellent job in providing leadership to the governors and I believe the overall consistency within the league continues to improve.

PJHL: What changes, or evolution, have you seen in the PJHL since the early 2000’s?
LM: My sons joined the PJHL out of Midget hockey for the 2003-04 Season. This was at the tail end of the rough-and-tumble era of Jr. B hockey. The governors had just reached a consensus to focus on younger players and be the development league for the WHL and the BCHL. When the BC Major Midget League was introduced in 2004, the evolution was slowed due to competition for the same players, yet the PJHL persevered and today is focused on providing quality hockey development opportunities to young B.C.-born players

PJHL: What do you tell parents and young players about the opportunities offered by the PJHL?
LM: The PJHL is an invaluable tool for kids wanting to chase their dream of moving up in the hockey world. It is a legitimate stepping stone to the next level of hockey. You cannot measure the value on the opportunity to play hockey at a high level and sleep in your own bed! The PJHL uniquely provides this. The PJHL pay-to-play model is currently the most cost-effective vehicle for parents to fund their child’s hockey development. It also provides a safe environment for kids who want to continue playing when they are nineteen and twenty. I have enjoyed seeing a lot of kids that started playing hockey at the BWC have success in the PJHL which confirms the value and legitimacy what is being offered by our league.

PJHL: Have you been able to see your son Tyler play overseas in recent seasons?
LM: As a parent, one of my greatest joys has been watching both of my boys play the game they love. As mentioned, Tyler is in his eleventh year of pro hockey in Germany and we have only missed going over to visit one year, and that was during COVID. The time difference is nine hours, so we can watch all his games on TV. We still schedule our life around those games!

PJHL: With a new franchise joining this season and another planned for next year, what do you hope to see in the league’s future?
LM: The future of the PJHL is bright. The opportunity to fill the void created when the BCHL abruptly left Hockey Canada is real and one that we are ideally suited to take on. We are committed to B.C. hockey players and the Hockey Canada development model.

The addition of several teams like Langley, White Rock, Chilliwack, Port Coquitlam and in 2024-25, the Coastal Tsunami, reflects the interest and success of the program. As an aside, the enthusiasm and persistence of the Gibsons-based organizing group for the Coastal Tsunami to become a part of the PJHL was very exciting and impressive. Their energy is contagious! The individual player experience will only continue to improve as our teams pursue the pathway to Junior A status.