The off-season in junior hockey is a time for the young men who play this sport to re-charge the batteries and train for things to come. For fans and media types like myself, it's an empty abyss that forces us to find things to fill the void that hockey occupies during the winter months. So while we're all busy training, golfing, spending time with friends and/or outdoors, team owners and GM's in the KIJHL are hard at work. They do all they can through the summer months to find ways to improve their individual programs and the league as a whole, and this off-season that started early.
After the grind of the 2014/15 playoffs there were serious questions about the schedule and how much hockey a team like the Kimberley Dynamiters had to play just to get to the final of the Cyclone Taylor Cup, let alone try to win it. The two numbers you need to know in this context are 29 and 45. The first, 29, is the number of games it took the Kimberley Dynamiters to bring home a silver medal from the Cyclone Taylor Cup. The second, 45, is the number of days it took to complete that task.
The schedule crunch was brought into question at the first round of off-season meetings and GM's and owners from around the league came up with a rather simple solution to 'decompress' the schedule a little bit.
They had a discussion about the number of days in which they had to play the playoffs in 2014/15, and ultimately realized it was too much for a lot of teams. Having taken this into account, it was discussed that the KIJHL season would start one week earlier in 2015/16, and end at the same time, giving teams more off-days during the season. This small adjustment allows two things:
1) It allows teams to avoid "3in3" situations, meaning there will be less weekends where teams play Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
2) It allows teams to play less weekday games, which is important to the league's bottom line in a lot of markets.
As for the Cyclone Taylor Cup, which in 2016 is hosted by the VIJHL's Victoria Cougars, it was pushed back a week to April 7-11, 2016.
This amendment was made to give the leagues more time to complete their playoffs and also give teams extra off days in the post-season. Doing this allows teams more rest, and a better opportunity to put their best foot forward at the most important time of year.
The buzz early on in the off-season was that the KIJHL Final would be a 5 game series between the winners of each conference. My first thought was, "Great. Gives teams more time to prepare and be healthy to make it the best final possible."
This brings us to the KIJHL AGM.
At the KIJHL's Annual General Meeting this past weekend hosted by the regular season Champion Osoyoos Coyotes, the question about the final was raised again. It was ultimately decided that it would go back to a 7 game series during the KIJHL Final with a format of 2-2-1-1-1 or 2-3-2 depending on what teams decide.
It was also announced that the crossover will stay once again, meaning that the two conferences will intertwine in the 2015/16 season. This season it's the Okanagan Division's turn to play the Neil Murdoch Division, while the Eddie Mountain Division will meet the Doug Birks Division. This means we'll get 2 rematches this season of last year's KIJHL Final between the Kimberley Dynamiters and the Kamloops Storm, which was an absolute classic.
Some of the topics covered at the AGM last weekend include a review of officiating for all 3 leagues under BC Hockey's rule, a review of the services provided by PlayFullScreen, as well as scheduling and some other housekeeping items. New Golden Rockets Head Coach and General Manager, Jason Stephens, covered some of the events that took place in this post.
One of the most interesting bits from the above post is the 30-day suspension enforced on players for failing to report after a trade. That means that if a kid feels he'd be better off returning to Midget and going to school at home rather than going to a new team far away (or nearby) that he will be penalized for doing so. It'll be interesting to see how that shakes out.
A week or so prior to hosting the KIJHL AGM, the Osoyoos Coyotes announced an impending deal with the Town of Osoyoos on a 5 year renewal of their arena lease, which means there will be competitive hockey in the desert for years to come.
A 5 year commitment is great to see from a KIJHL franchise, particularly one in a market where they've had teams come and go over the past couple of decades.
What's to come:
I'm working on a list of off-season moves for all 20 KIJHL teams. Look for that over the next few days here on the blog and don't forget to follow along on twitter with myself, the Summerland Steam, and the KIJHL