More changes are coming to the KIJHL this season.
The Beaver Valley Nitehawks held its Annual General Meeting on Thursday at the Montrose Hall with some compelling announcements.
A new 49-game schedule with crossover games against the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference will be re-implemented in 2018-19, just two years removed from its cancellation.
“We’ll see crossovers again,” said Nitehawks Vice President Jake Swanson. “And then as far as playing the other conference, how it’s going to work is the Neil Murdoch Division is going to host one division, so we’re going to host either the Okanagan division or the Doug Birks division and the one we don’t host is the one we’ll travel to.”
Unlike the pared down 47-game schedule (from 52) implemented in 2016, in which B.V. played only in the Kootenay Conference and faced each of it’s Murdoch Division rivals eight times; the new season will see the Nitehawks play their Neil Murdoch Division rivals six times, Eddie Murdoch division teams three times, and each of the 10 Okanagan-Shuswap Conference teams once over the course of the season.
According to Swanson, a report compiled by league executives, show that the expenses to travel and play teams from each conference is not as fiscally draining as originally surmised.
“They did a really good job on an ‘Implication of crossover report’ … and for a lot of teams, playing crossovers is actually beneficial to teams in terms of travel.
“With each potential schedule there will be teams that do struggle, and we can’t get it right for everybody, but I think it’s a good balance and it provides our players and our teams an opportunity to play against everybody throughout the league, improving the competition.”
In addition, the KIJHL Prospects Game will be officially scrapped in favour of a KIJHL College Showcase in Kamloops Dec. 27-29. Every KIJHL team will travel to the Okanagan city and play two games in front of a collection of college scouts, similar to the BCHL-Bauer Showcase.
The prospect of the new Showcase was not completely embraced by the Nitehawks and other teams, as the dates interferes with many of their biggest fund-raising initiatives, like B.V.’s annual ScotiaBank 50-50 draw on Dec. 30, not to mention the added expense.
“The idea has some merit,” said Nitehawks head coach Terry Jones. “The Sicamous coach Rob Fitzpatrick has put in a lot of time on it, but it is unnecessary. Any player who is a solid player in our league can play in the ACHA or Div 3 NCAA hockey league. The individual cost for each player is what determines whether they can go or not.
“Tuition fees for these schools range in the 50K per year amount, with scholarships and bursaries amounting to about half of this amount. With the American dollar as it is, it leaves a 30K per year allotment per student.”
Making it cost prohibitive for many regardless of a bursary or scholarship.
As for the Nitehawk’s financial standing, the non-profit organization did well enough at the gate to break even on the year, but a first-round loss in Game 7 to the Castlegar Rebels compromised potential earnings. Nevertheless, funds raised through their popular meat draw at the Fruitvale Pub, 50-50 draws, bus charters, camps and AM Ford’s drive 1 for ur team helped buoy the bottom line.
“We’re still in a healthy position overall,” said Swanson.
The Nitehawks executive also saw a few changes with Caroline Cymbal and longtime member Thea Hanson stepping down and Mary Gay stepping in.
“Thea’s been with the team almost 10 years now and done a fantastic job … and as with players, there’s a constant shuffling of volunteers as well.”
Following the success of the Nitehawks spring camps in Okotoks and Fruitvale, the Hawks signed three players and expect about 20 back for the main camp in August.
“Hopefully as many of those guys come as possible, lots of talent,” said Swanson. “And it was really nice that Craig Clare came along to that camp.”
Clare, the Head of Hockey Operations for the Trail Smoke Eaters, accompanied Beaver Valley coaching staff to the Okotoks camp to help recruit players not just for the Nitehawks but potentially his BCHL Smoke Eaters.
“He talked about the uniqueness of the position that we’re in and that we have a junior A team 2o minutes down the road that could provide opportunities for players if they come to our main camp and make our roster,” said Swanson.
Former Nitehawks Ross Armour, Jeremy Lucchini, Blake Sidoni, Spencer McLean and Tyler Ghirardosi all made an impact with the Smoke Eaters last season, with more Nitehawks hoping to take the same step this year.
In the new era of detente, the two teams have assisted one another with their spring and main camps and consulted on scheduling to avoid game-day conflicts throughout the season.
“We’re definitely working together with them on all levels,” said Swanson. “Jamie (Cominotto) and Craig (Clare) are doing lots of talking as well we are making sure we’re in constant conversation about our schedules. So when we go to our scheduling meetings in June we’re going to try to avoid conflicts as much as possible. Any time we have games on the same night it can affect both teams negatively.”
The Nitehawks GM Jamie Cominotto will attend the KIJHL AGM on June 9, when the schedule will be hammered out and details of other league business addressed.
“Every year presents unique challenges, and we just got to do the best we can to meet them and work around them,” added Swanson.