The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League wrapped up its annual general meeting in Nipawin on June 1 with plenty of good news coming out of the two-day session.
However, there was one major area of concern that had to be dealt with, and that was the result of two motions that were passed unanimously by the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
The SJHL governors and coaches were informed that player payment must follow NCAA legislation and that inter-league player transfers must not exceed the maximum limit on the cash component of such a transaction.
The reasons for these motions are quite obvious as it levels the playing field for all participating teams and also ensures that scholarship opportunities are not denied due to rules being broken.
League president Bill Chow says that the SJHL is “not immune” to instances of abuse, but he wants all participating teams to be aware that consequences are severe if rules are not followed.
Some of the penalties that were laid out by the CJHL to thwart any wrong-doing include: minimum $10,000 fine payable to the CJHL; banishment from regional or national championships for the year the violation occurs in addition to the following three seasons; no players registered by the team on the Hockey Canada Registry can participate in exclusive events such as the World Junior A Challenge, CJHL Prospects Game or the Central Canada Cup Challenge for up to three years following the violation.
While Chow said the ruling was not directly in response to what happened with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League last fall, he did say that the CJHL wants to be proactive and to protect the players, especially those who do have scholarship opportunities.
On a more positive note, the league announced that attendance was up with four per cent more fans taking in regular-season games while there was a whopping 44 per cent increase during the playoffs.
Chow wasn’t sure of the exact reasons for the huge increase in the playoffs, but he guessed the late spring and really exciting playoff match-ups had a lot to do with it.
While the league moves towards a season of realignment with three divisions of four teams each, the prospects for a 13th franchise has stalled as the organizing group in Warman has indicated that there was insufficient support to proceed with an application to join the league for the 2014-15 season.
A scheduling meeting was also held in conjunction with the AGM and it was announced that the Melville Millionaires and Estevan Bruins will open the season on Sept. 19 with Access 7 broadcasting live from the game. The regular season will end on Mar. 4 with the playoffs to begin as early as Mar. 6.
Each team will play 56 games this year – up two from last season – as per a request from the teams. The schedule had been reduced due to the elimination of the annual Showcase tournament, but the teams expressed an interest in adding more games to the schedule.
One final order of business was the announcement that Chow had been given a new three-year contract that will carry him through as league president until the end of the 2015-16 season. Chow said it had been in the works since the governor’s meeting earlier in the year, but was just recently finalized.
“Hopefully I can accomplish some of my goals (in that time),” said Chow.
Chow will also be the chair of Junior Hockey on the board of Hockey Canada beginning this year.
The meeting was also an opportunity to welcome the three new coaches and managers who were recently hired. Shawn Martin with the LaRonge Ice Wolves, Bryce Thoma with the Weyburn Red Wings and Chris Lewgood with the Estevan Bruins were all at the meeting and Chow said it was nice for everyone to get familiar with the newest members of the league.
A recruitment DVD that is being made to help promote the league was also worked on with coaches and board members adding their contributions to the package.
In less than 90 days the rinks will be buzzing with activity again, but it looks like the league has everything well under control for another successful season of Junior “A” hockey.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)