By Dave Leaderhouse
The final piece of the 2016-17 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season was put in place on the weekend when the annual general meeting was held in Nipawin and as was the case with the past 12 months the AGM was completed relatively smoothly.
“The meetings capped off a great season,” acknowledged league president Bill Chow on Monday. “You would always want more people in the seats, but we feel we are more successful than the year before so that is a good thing.”
“There was a pretty good sense of unity at the meeting and that kind of camaraderie is a real positive,” added Chow.
The meetings began with the annual bantam draft and Chow said he was impressed with how all 12 teams came to the table very well prepared.
“The scouts had obviously worked very hard and the coaches and general managers, even though they would have liked to have gotten out and seen more of the players play, were informed,” noted Chow. “We completed the six rounds in two-and-a-half hours – which is pretty good.”
There were no rule changes up for discussion, but one thing the fans will notice next year is more games with the four-man officiating crew. Presently about 60 per cent of the games have the two referees and two linesmen working the games, but that will be increased to 75 per cent for the 2017-18 campaign.
“We saw a lot of three-man games and there is a lot more (infractions) going on than when it is a four-man game,” explained Chow. “We would obviously like to get to a 100 per cent of the games having the four-man crew, but it does become something of a challenge because of finances.”
“We will do a little bit at a time – we think we are doing what we feel is right,” added Chow.
There was a bit of discussion about the demise of the Western Canada Cup, the event that saw the SJHL champion join the other three western league champions and a host team for a competition to select two clubs to move on to the RBC Cup.
“There were some positives and some negatives,” says Chow. “If it had been a financial success then everyone would like it, but we are going back to the Anavet Cup (Saskatchewan vs Manitoba) and it is what it is.”
Fans will also see another difference in the future as home teams will wear their dark jerseys for the start of the 2018-19 season. Chow said there was no real reason for the change other than it being a bit different and it has nothing to do with that season being the start of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the league. That major milestone will have a number of celebrations which Chow says will see planning pick up in intensity in the future.
The 2017-18 regular-season schedule was completed at the AGM, but won’t be finalized until later this month and released to the public by the first week of July. The regular season is set to start Sept. 14 with training camps preceding that by a couple of weeks.
The annual Showcase, which will once again be held in Warman, is slated for Sept. 24-27 with a pair of young prospect games featuring midget-aged players kicking off the event followed by a series of regular-season games where each team will play a pair of matches that count in the standings.
The 2016-17 season was deemed a success by all accounts, but as Chow has indicated every year that he has been at the helm, improving on past successes and making the SJHL better going forward is always the No. 1 goal. The work to improve player safety, attracting more fans and sponsors, putting out a better product and having the league more visible for post-secondary opportunities for the players is an on-going process and Chow hopes that what is in place will help take the SJHL to another level not just for next year, but for years to come.