News from KIJHL meetings in June is seeing sweeping changes to postseason play in BC Junior B Hockey.
The grind of playoffs, particularly in the KIJHL, has been much maligned and well documented over the last several years, with all roads leading to the Cyclone Taylor Cup. From there, the winner gained entry into the Keystone Cup, the Western Canadian Championship tournament, and hopped on what was always either a flight or a VERY long bus ride one, two, or sometimes even three provinces to the west.
All three BC based Junior B Leagues, Vancouver Island’s VIJHL, the Lower Mainland’s PIJHL, and the interior based KIJHL have voted unanimously to drop participation in the Keystone Cup for the 2017/18 season.
This means that British Columbia will not have a representative at the 2018 Western Canadian Championships, and that everybody’s season will end no later than the annual Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial championship tournament held in early April.
To the casual fan, this looks like a bad thing. To those involved with the teams vying for spots in these tournaments, it’s seen as a good thing. Not only is the Keystone Cup tournament a taxing grind to get to from a playing standpoint, it’s even less viable from a money standpoint. It’s been well noted in the past that teams lose thousands and thousands of dollars in pursuit of a Western Canadian Championship, and the leagues have finally voted to end that trend.
The changes made by the PIJHL, VIJHL, and KIJHL not only have an effect on the Western Canadian Championship front, but on the league playoff front as well. For the KIJHL, they’ll go back to all four rounds being best-of 7, after testing a year or two of a 7-7-5-5 format. The split format was much-maligned across the league, particularly this past season when the KIJHL voted to eliminate the crossover between conferences. This meant that the two teams playing in the league final would be seeing each other for the first time, and only had 5 games to try and win a championship.
The league voted last year for no crossover based on cost, and did so as a two year trial. They also voted to shorten the season to 47 games from 52, to try and limit 3-game weekends as well as mid-week games. The 2017/18 season will mark the second year of the agreed upon deal, and the matter will be brought up again at the AGM next June ahead of the 2018/19 season. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the league bring the crossover back into play, and go back to a 52 game schedule.