Entering his fourth season as president of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, Bill Chow admits it is a pretty heady time for the Junior “A” circuit. But, he is also somewhat cautious and optimistic for the future.
Armed with a national championship that the Yorkton Terriers brought home last spring, and with the first-ever Midget AAA showcase on the horizon (Sunday in Warman), Chow says the league is moving forward and gaining attention across the country.
While those accomplishments, along with Kindersley playing host to the World Junior “A” Challenge in December, are what Chow calls “feathers in the hat” he is quick to point out that the league does not intend to sit back and level off.
“We are always trying to figure out how to get more people in the seats,” says Chow. “We are also still trying to create a SJHL scholarship and continue to turn rocks over for new finances.”
Also in the forefront, largely due to the highly publicized off-field exploits of the National Football League players and management, is the conduct of SJHL players, staff and volunteers.
“We have nothing in our constitution regarding ‘bad-act people’,” acknowledged Chow, “but we have always made decisions based on what’s best for the league.”
“Everybody has to use their best judgement,” added Chow. “Today, with all the social media, if someone does something inappropriate, it is going to come forward.”
Chow says that players and staff on the 12 franchises are all well known in their respective communities and that they are all role models no matter what their association with the team is. That, in itself, is a privilege and he hopes that everyone continues to respect that honour, something he says has been held very high in the past and should continue in the future.
Attracting the best players, and coaches, is also something the league continues to move forward on and the Midget AAA showcase, which will precede the two-day SJHL showcase also scheduled for Warman early next week, is a great example of how the league continues to promote itself.
“We feel it is a good way of exposing the players to our league,” explained Chow. “Our education consultant (Garry Gawryliuk) will be speaking to all of the groups before they go on the ice. The league is always looking for different ways to promote ourselves.”
Chow used the Yorkton model as an example where the Terriers had plenty of home-grown talent on their roster that captured the RBC Cup in the spring. While that was successful he also noted that players from other parts of the country are not as hesitant on coming to Saskatchewan anymore either and that just makes the league more competitive and visible when recruiters for post-secondary opportunities come to watch the action.
“There is a different spotlight on it when you can say a team from your league is the RBC champion,” said Chow. “Anybody can beat anybody on any given night so that shows how close and competitive it is.”
“We’ve definitely turned a corner and added skill and speed to our game,” added Chow. “You have to have a lot of things go right for you (to be a champion).”
Chow indicated that moving to the three-division format last year created more excitement for the teams and the fans and that this year the league will be adopting the Hockey Canada one-fight rule where players will be ejected when engaged in fisticuffs. Chow added that there are no new talks of expansion and that the 12 teams presently in the fold are the flagship of the league and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
Building on what is already in place, and continuing to make it more attractive for the players and fans, is the mandate and Chow says hard work by everyone involved will continue to be the key.