Vancouver Thunderbirds Hockey - Skate.Shoot. Soar.

What is "Balancing"?

Balancing is a term used across team sports to describe the process of creating competitive teams within a division of competition. For Vancouver Thunderbirds Hockey, this refers to the process we employ to ensure our teams have comparable skill levels in comparison to other teams in their age division.

Why does Vancouver Thunderbirds Hockey balance our recreational teams?

As members of the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association (PCAHA), we are mandated to have balanced teams in the recreational division. For more information on this PCAHA rule, click here and read Section B.1.b.

What is the process?

Following direction from Hockey Canada, as well as feedback from previous seasons, a new process has been implemented for the distribution of players and balancing of teams in Recreational hockey throughout Vancouver Thunderbird Hockey.


Initial Assessment

Players will be slotted into Assessment Groups that include a mix of first and second year players, forwards and defense, and a range of experience and skills. Each group will scrimmage a number of times while being evaluated by the coaches and our Director of Player & Coach Development (DPCD), Mike Todd.

The bench coaches for the scrimmages will be coaches whose son or daughter will be on the opposite team. Coaches will ensure that lines are mixed throughout the assessment scrimmages.

At the completion of the Initial Assessment there will be movement of players from group to group for the next stage and/or as players are released from the rep tryout process.


Balancing Groups

Balancing groups will look a lot like teams: each group will have a coaching staff, a manager, and a Hockey Canada Safety Person. Balancing groups, however, are not finalized teams and player movement is expected.  Balancing groups may or may not practice, since as much as possible, available ice will be used for internal balancing games.  Your division manager and/or your group’s manager will communicate your ice schedule during this time.

Balancing Groups will play a series of exhibition games. During this stage, players may be moved between teams to achieve balance. We are mandated by PCAHA to balance our teams. Balanced teams take priority over playing with friends, etc. Once this stage has been completed it is hoped that there will not be any more player movement. However,  there may be more player movement if PCAHA requests that more balancing is required.

Division managers and/or the DPCD will attend as many of these games as possible.  Balancing groups will continue to play internal balancing games until the start of PCAHA balancing. Once PCAHA balancing begins, balancing groups will be considered preliminary teams. At this point, the teams will receive their normal practice schedules and game schedules will be issued by PCAHA.


PCAHA Balancing

Typically, PCAHA balancing begins mid-October and lasts at least a month.  During this time, PCAHA randomly places teams into balancing groups with teams from other PCAHA associations. At this point, balancing groups will be considered preliminary teams. They will wear association jerseys and play games against teams from other associations.

During this stage, PCAHA carefully monitors all teams. If PCAHA deems that a team is struggling or too strong compared to other teams in their association, PCAHA will mandate player movement.  Our hope every year is that our internal balancing process will be sufficient enough that late PCAHA-mandated player movement will not be necessary. However, despite the best efforts of division managers during internal balancing, PCAHA will sometimes mandate movement.

Your patience and understanding during this time is appreciated.

PCAHA reviews the balancing mid-November and can ask for player movement up until the end of November. Following PCAHA balancing and once any required PCAHA movement is complete, PCAHA will deem the division ‘balanced’ and teams will be considered final.


Player Movement

Player movement is to be expected throughout the balancing process.  Please be patient with the process and be open to the possibility that your child may be asked to move from one group to another or even from one team to another.  While division managers make every effort to minimize player movement, moves are sometimes necessary in order to achieve balance.

Attendance is by far the biggest factor in balancing.  It is impossible to balance teams where players are absent. Parents can help the balancing process immensely by doing the following:

  • ensuring their players attend all of the balancing games and PCAHA placement games
  • reminding your player to stay out of the penalty box

Division managers will email parents if their son or daughter is being asked to move from one group to another. If parents receive this email, we ask that they be as understanding as possible that the move is being made with as much care and consideration as possible. Once a decision has been made to move a player, it is not possible to reverse this decision.

Parents can support the transition to their player’s new team by offering encouragement. Players will not lose any friendships made with their previous group and will have opportunities to make new friendships with their new group. Ultimately, a parents’ attitude is the biggest factor in a player’s ability to make a smooth transition to a new team and have a positive experience.



Goaltenders will rotate through all of the balancing groups and not be placed on a team until at least halfway through the balancing process.

Goaltenders should expect to share goaltending duties with another goaltender once they are placed on a team for the season.


Schedules & Groups

Information related to schedules will be posted on the Vancouver Thunderbirds Hockey website on the Recreational tab closer to the start of the season. Your Division Manager will also email this information to you along with the Balancing Group your player belongs with.


Regular Season and Play-offs

Once PCAHA balancing is complete, PCAHA will create the regular season playing groups and the regular season will begin. Your team will be placed in the group that PCAHA feels best matches your team’s playing ability. The regular season continues until the end of January. Following the regular season, PCAHA creates play-off groups. The play-off format is a round-robin with the top two finishers qualifying to play for the banner.