2018/19 KIJHL Season to Open September 7 and See Multiple Changes

The KIJHL will start it’s 2018/19 Regular Season calendar on Friday, September 7, 2018. When it does, the league will have a new President/Commissioner, a new Registrar and a new treasurer for the first time in more than two decades. At the KIJHL Annual General Meeting in June, longtime President Bill Olhausen, his wife Mary, and KIJHL Treasurer John Surovy announced they would be stepping down from their respective positions effective June 30, 2018

The Olhausen’s began with the KIJHL in 1995, Bill as the Statistician and Mary as the Registrar. After several years Bill became the President of the KIJHL, a post he held for 16 years from 2002 to 2018. John Surovy joined the KIJHL in his current capacity of Treasurer in 1997, and has spent the last 21 years helping better the league and the people in it. All three individuals have given countless amounts of time and limitless effort in making the KIJHL one of the premier Junior B hockey leagues in Canada.

They leave the KIJHL in a much better position than when they arrived. Upon the arrival of the three in the late 1990’s, the league was comprised of just 10 teams and 2 divisions. Over more than two decades of involvement, they’ve seen the league grow into a 20 team monster, made up of two separate conferences and four divisions of highly competitive hockey. They’ve seen 9 Provincial titles won at the Cyclone Taylor Cup and 5 Western Canadian Championships won at the Keystone Cup by representatives from the KIJHL, and should be very proud of the work they’ve all done to make this league as great as it could be.

As the Olhausen’s and John Surovy exit the KIJHL there are many changes on the horizon. The AGM produced a myriad of new (and old) changes as the KIJHL tries to continue to better itself and create new roads for players to advance in both the junior and collegiate ranks. Let’s go through the changes one by one:

KIJHL COLLEGE SHOWCASE 

When: December 27-29, 2018

Where: Kamloops, BC

The inaugural KIJHL College Showcase is already much maligned, and the idea isn’t even two months old. On the surface, the majority agree that it’s a good idea with terrible timing. Yes, it’s right after the KIJHL holiday break, and yes, it starts just two days after Christmas Day, but in reality it’s the only time and place where enough ice and hotel rooms are available to make it happen. The league along with the voting members did their due diligence, and were able to get upwards of 20 Colleges from across Canada and the US to commit to being there during the showcase. This will be in addition to the Junior A and Major Junior scouts that will attend from across the continent.

All 20 teams will take part, playing two games each over the three days. Teams will play two of their 10 crossover games at the showcase, one home and one away. Personally I love the idea, just don’t love the timing as there are several very large Midget Tournaments (Mac’s in Calgary is the first to come to mind) happening around the same time that will draw Junior and Major Junior scouts elsewhere.

The downside to this timing for member teams is it takes away some of their key home dates. For instance Kimberley and Fernie, as well as Osoyoos and Summerland in particular usually play a home and home series in the week after the Christmas break, to get everybody’s blood pumping and ready to run the gauntlet to the end of the Regular Season and Playoffs. These teams also really look forward to a gate that might be larger than usual with the extra traffic around these towns during the holiday season.

In Summary: My view of the Showcase is the same as a lot of people from both inside the league and those viewing from afar. It’s a FANTASTIC idea and recruiting tool that should continue year over year, however, the event needs to be planned with better timing in mind. 

TOP PROSPECTS GAME

With the entrance of the KIJHL College Showcase, the Top Prospects Game that’s taken place in Kelowna for the past two seasons will no longer have a place. Both would be overkill for teams and scouts, and the Showcase in Kamloops will allow scouts to see ALL players in their element playing with their own team, own system, and familiar linemates. The Showcase format, although the timing is questionable, will work out better for the league and it’s players as a whole, rather than just the selected 16-18 year old players from each team.

SCHEDULE

The KIJHL voting members elected to go back to a ‘modified cross-over’ schedule for 2018/19 after having no cross-over games for the past two seasons. The modified cross-over is a little different than in years past in the sense that each division will travel to a different division than they host. For reference:

Okanagan Division : Travels to Neil Murdoch, Hosts Eddie Mountain Division

Doug Birks Division: Travels to Eddie Mountain Division, Hosts Neil Murdoch Division

Eddie Mountain Division: Travels to Okanagan Division, Hosts Doug Birks Division

Neil Murdoch Division: Travels to Doug Birks Division, Hosts Okanagan Division

In the past it’s been done where the same teams cross-over to play each other twice a season, once home and once away, and this is a bit different from that. This allows every team in the league to see every other team in the league at least once per year, which is good for the league and for competition. It’s been made clear by both fans and people inside the KIJHL that the ‘no cross-over’ schedule they’ve had on trial for the past two years is not ideal for viewing purposes.

With this in mind, the KIJHL will run a 49 game schedule in 2018/19 that includes the following:

6 Games against each divisional opponent (opposed to the previous 8 per year)

3 games against each of the 5 non-divisional Conference opponents

10 Cross-Over Games, 2 of which are played at the Showcase.

 

FULL FACE PROTECTION

Ah, yes, the elephant in the room. On December 5th, 2017, BC Hockey released a statement regarding full-faced protection that I originally thought was a hoax.

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It states that ALL Junior B hockey players across British Columbia will be required to wear full-face protection starting in 2018/19. The idea as a whole makes some sort of sense. If the plan is to have players wear full-face protection all the way up through the junior ranks, including the BCHL, on their way to colleges where they have to wear cages or shields anyway.

The problem is that BC Hockey makes no mention of the BCHL having to abide. The KIJHL, PIJHL, and VIJHL, as well as the Fort St. John Huskies and Dawson Creek Jr. Canucks of the NWJHL are classified under a single ‘Junior B’ banner, requiring players to wear either cages or shields starting this September. The reason stated in the release is to diminish dental injuries as well as save teams money on insurance premiums and promote a ‘safer environment for development’.

The big question is:  Why only Junior B?

If it’s for the betterment of development as the release states, as well as diminishing facial injury and insurance premiums, wouldn’t it be a smart move for the BCHL to take action on as well? You would think that considering the BCHL has a high(er) rate of college and university commitment, mostly to NCAA Div I & II schools, they would be open to the idea if it was presented to them. But either they weren’t, or it wasn’t, and it was only Junior B that got hit with the mandate.

To me, and this is personal opinion only, it seems that the theory might be that Junior B has always been a kind of ‘rough and tumble’ type place, and they’re trying to eliminate the instances of high hits, fighting, and sticks in the face. This is a good thing, because players used to call it ‘Jungle B’ for a reason.

But that’s gone now. Long gone.

The KIJHL is now a place where young players want to play because of the skill development and coaching they receive, and because of the competition and the ability to jump into the world of junior hockey at potentially a younger age and continue their development. The KIJHL adds elements of travel, living away from home, and playing with other hockey players from all over the country and even the world into the mix that players may not get with their local or zone midget program.

The game’s never been faster, the talent level has never been higher, and things are (or were) trending in the right direction. The league has never had a higher rate of player advancement, and it doesn’t seem to make too much sense wearing a cage/shield in Junior B, moving to Junior A and being able to wear a visor, and then having to go straight back to a cage/shield again once into the collegiate ranks.

With this mandate from BC Hockey, there’s been word from a few people around the league that they are at risk of losing players who come from out of province for a higher level of hockey, simply because these players can live at home or closer to home and not have to wear a cage or a shield. You wouldn’t think it’s that big of a deal to an average player, but unfortunately it is.

Word around the hockey community is that the KIJHL, VIJHL, and PIJHL have filed a joint appeal of the ruling with BC Hockey, and are awaiting word on what happens next.

 

In Summation, there are quite a few changes to make note of prior to the KIJHL Season beginning on September 7th. With the scheduling changes, the showcase, the change in leadership and the potential spat with BC Hockey looming, there will be a healthy amount of talking points over the next few months. Ultimately it’s all good for the league, and it’s shaping up to be a real fun 2018/19 KIJHL Season.

The Summerland Steam will open their 2018/19 campaign with a home date against the Columbia Valley Rockies, the first time they’ve seen the Rockies since the 2014/15 season. That year, the Steam won both meetings between the two teams, 4-3OT in Invermere on October 18 (Riley Pettitt OTW), and 5-4 in Summerland on December 5, 2018 courtesy a game winner from Coleton Fisher.

After opening night, the Steam will travel to Princeton to play the Posse on September 8 to close out their opening weekend.