The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) held their Annual General Meeting on June 8 and 9, making several notable changes for the 2017-18 season.
According to Kimberley Dynamiters head coach and general manager Derek Stuart, there were two major highlights.
First was the decision to return all four of the league’s playoff series to best-of-sevens. Last year, the conference and league finals were only a best-of-five.
“The players and coaches would rather have four best-of-sevens,” Stuart said. “It was a unanimous vote to bring that back.”
In order to accommodate the change, the KIJHL has set aside 42 days to complete the four rounds of playoffs. A worst case scenario would see a team playing 28 games in 42 days.
The second highlight was the league’s withdrawal from the Keystone Cup, the current Junior B championship competition for Western Canada.
“Even though I have never been to the Keystone, I have heard enough horror stories to not want to go,” Stuart said of the event. “Withdrawal from the Keystone is big for our team, league and province.”
The KIJHL’s decision was later followed by all of BC Hockey, meaning that none of the province’s Junior B leagues will participate in the Keystone Cup next year.
While no replacement for the competition has been determined, the issue is now being discussed by a committee. However, it appears that this may be the end of the Keystone Cup, a tournament that BC has dominated in the past ten years winning seven golds, two silvers and one bronze.
Speaking with the Trail Times earlier this month, Beaver Valley Nitehawks governor Dennis Bedin said that there is a proposal for a tournament involving the three western provinces: BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“We’ll have a Junior B tournament at the top level, similar to the Cyclone [Taylor Cup],” Bedin told the Times. “A western Junior B championship that will be set up with good refereeing and good competition – I’m looking forward to it.”
There were also several other changes determined at the AGM.
It was announced that the successful ‘Prospects Game’ would be returning to the KIJHL again next season.
After being resurrected for the first time since 2011 this past season, the showcase of the league’s top young players will have even more emphasis placed on it in 2017-18.
The league will be blacking out the schedule during the weekend of the game and, as opposed to last season, five 18 year-olds to be allowed on each conference team.
“We thought that it wasn’t fair last year, since a lot of the 18-year-olds are being recruited [here] as a stepping stone to get into Junior A,” Stuart said of the change.
An All-Star game for the league was also discussed, but ultimately not pursued.
Last year’s elimination of crossover games between the Kootenay Conference and the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference will also remain for 2017-18 as it was a two-year agreement by and is not set to be reevaluated until the 2018 AGM.
Stuart said that there has also been recent development towards a new way for coaches and officials to work, evaluate and develop together through an online forum. The hope is to be able to recruit more officials.
Stuart feels that all the changes made at the AGM will make the KIJHL a better product, and a better place to recruit players.