There is a certain wow factor in the results produced by the Keystone Cup champion Beaver Valley Nitehawks, the first edition of that always excellent team to take the Western Canadian-plus junior B crown.
This year’s team is arguably not the most talent-laden group to carry the Nitehawks’ colours, nor is it the most experienced, and it is among the youngest of the squads that have gone into the playoffs with a chance of success.
But, somehow, once they got past the Nelson Leafs, this team crushed everyone in its path to add a banner not seen before to the collection in the Hawks’ nest.
Crushed, as in taking six straight convincing wins and outscoring its five opponents, 32-5, at the Keystone event. Along the way Beaver Valley dominated the second best team, host Abbotsford (which lost only to the Nitehawks), 13-3.
It’s a major, remarkable, singular achievement for a team that has achieved much over the years, and I hope a lot of you got out to the valley to celebrate their feats yesterday.
• As a side note, junior B leagues need to get much, much better at running web sites, especially schedules and game reports. C’mon Man, reporting on the highlight event of the season was awful.
Just one of many things – every penalty at the Keystone Cup, including misconducts and coincident minors, somehow counted in the box score as a power play. Beaver Valley’s extra man attack wasn’t great, but it was far better than the 11 per cent efficiency it was credited with in Abbotsford (closer to 20 per cent, in fact).
• This season’s playoff results should, in a perfect world, re-ignite the debate the KIJHL had 25 years ago about the age limits in junior B hockey. At that time most of the local teams made an effort to make the junior B segment a U-20 endeavour, both to return it closer to the juvenile (U-19) level it was intended to replace from minor hockey and to emphasize the point that 21 year olds still playing at the third tier of (non-college) hockey should really be encouraged to move on to a less hockey-centric, more career-oriented, life focus.
It wasn’t and isn’t, the old days, when the so-called, “Hockey Bums,” denied big time opportunity by a six-team NHL peopled with tyrannical owners using tyrannical rules, were itinerant workers who eventually made permanent some of the employment and business options they were afforded in trade for their hockey talents.
Then, and now, it is about allowing, even forcing young men who are very, very, unlikely to make a life out of playing hockey to move towards some endeavour that will make them a life.
Even a junior B schedule can make it very difficult for a young man to give much focus to scholastic, trade or other life opportunities, and filling rosters with players entering their third decade limits playing opportunities for the younger players to experience the higher competition they require to improve and assess their potential – for which the junior B segment was instituted.
Back in that day, the idea was torpedoed by the mainland/island groups, with help from one rebel East Kootenay owner (who now has a KIJHL division named after him but then had strong 19 year-old group prepared to return for another season).
This year’s Cyclone Taylor and Keystone results, which show a young team dominating teams icing seven and eight 20-plus players, maybe, by now, proves the point.
When 21 year-olds cannot compete with mainly 18 and 19 year-olds at the junior B level, they should see the writing on the wall about their futures. If they cannot read it, the adults who operate the system need to give them guidance, and a little push in an appropriate direction.
It is supposed to be about the kids, at least for the most part. I guess we will see about that.