The calendar still shows just over three weeks remaining until summer gives way to autumn, but another calendar is very clear: hockey season has arrived.
All 12 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League teams begin training camp on Thursday with the first set of pre-season games taking place as early as Sunday.
Training camps will consist of conditioning workouts along with scrimmages to give the various coaching and scouting staffs an opportunity to gauge what kind of talent is available to form their teams for the upcoming season.
Exhibition games will then provide further opportunities to see what the players can do in game situations. There is little time to trim the rosters down as the regular season gets under way in two weeks beginning on Sept. 13 with a full slate of contests.
The Battlefords North Stars begin defence of their Canalta Cup championship with a pre-season tilt on Monday against the Bonnyville Pontiacs at the North Battleford Civic Centre. Before that match takes place, however, the Melville Millionaires will host the Yorkton Terriers and the Flin Flon Bombers will travel to Nipawin to square off against the Hawks on Sunday.
Teams will play as many as five pre-season tilts before the regular season begins with all 12 teams engaged in a home-and-home set to kick off opening weekend. A week after the season gets under way the annual Showcase will be held in Warman with all 12 teams playing a pair of games before what is expected to be a large turnout of scouts from various levels of post-secondary institutions and higher hockey leagues.
In past years the top 10 teams qualified for the post-season with the seventh through 10th seeds playing a Survivor Series to eliminate two squads prior to the quarter-final round. That has changed this year with just the top eight teams going right into the quarter-finals putting even more emphasis on each and every game.
The regular season concludes on March 3 with the playoffs to follow to determine a representative for inter-provincial playdowns enroute to the National Junior “A” Championship to be played in Portage, Man., in May.
It’s an exciting time of the season and after a four-month absence of game action that all changes on Thursday beginning with hundreds of hopefuls trying to earn a coveted spot on an SJHL roster.