SJHL AGM: Franchises Now In Good Shape

The 2014-15 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season was officially closed and the 2015-16 campaign was opened when the annual general meeting of league governors, coaches and general managers was held on the weekend in Nipawin.

SJHL president Bill Chow says the weekend of meetings was productive as a number of items were dealt with including the first-ever bantam draft.

“For it being the first one I thought it went really well,” acknowledged Chow. “All of the teams came in well prepared which is a tribute to them.”

“The thought process (of the draft) is that it puts emphasis on Saskatchewan kids and shows their importance to the league,” added Chow. “I think the players, and their parents, now know they are important to the organization (that drafted them).”

Once the draft was completed Chow said it was business as usual with the league schedule being hammered out. Teams still have to firm up their home dates when they return to their respective centres, but the regular season is set to begin on the Sept. 18-19 weekend.

Normally the annual Showcase kicks off the campaign, but due to the September long weekend being so late this year the league has opted to host the event Oct. 4-7, once again in Warman.

This year’s Showcase will have a bit of a twist to it as it will begin with a pair of games featuring Midget AAA players in various age groups followed by all 12 SJHL teams playing two games each for a total of 14 games overall during the four days.

Last year’s Showcase was a resounding success and Chow feels that this year will attract even more attention as scouts from various post-secondary schools and higher-level hockey leagues will have ample opportunity to see what the league has for talent.

Other items that were discussed on the weekend were team and league finances, particularly those of the Weyburn Red Wings and Kindersley Klippers. Chow said that the Red Wings at one point had incurred a $175,000 debt, but have taken a big chunk out of that and that plans are in place to knock it down even further.

As for the Klippers, hosting the World Junior “A” Challenge in December allowed that franchise to take care of its financial situation and will be stronger as it moves forward.

The economic impact of the SJHL in the province is huge and Chow estimates that upwards of $20 million can be attributed to the operation of the league and its 12 franchises. This information is important because it is hoped that more sponsorship can be attracted to help offset costs and make all of the franchises viable entities.

On the ice it was decided that their will be no rule changes to be implemented, but Chow said, as is the case every year, there is always plenty of concern for player safety.

“Everybody competes on the ice, but off the ice they find a way to work together and make things work for everyone,” noted Chow.

Nothing specific will be implemented, but on-going monitoring of dangerous situations will be crucial to maintain player safety. The SJHL has been fortunate not to have had any serious incidents and with good planning and preparedness it is hoped that trend continues.

In addition to Chow returning for a fifth season as lea

gue president the board of governors is also status quo. The mandate remains the same to make the league one of the premiere Junior “A” circuits in the country and with the success shown at recent RBC Cup championships, along with the large number of players being recruited for post-secondary opportunities, it looks like the road is leading in that direction.

Training camps begin in early September and exhibition games will then lead up to the start of the regular season. An added perk to this year is Estevan hosting the 2016 Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup, which Chow says will be another great opportunity to show off the league.