For the second straight year the Spokane Braves will withdraw from the 2021-22 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) season.
The decision comes as the result of continued uncertainty surrounding travel between Canada and the United States due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Braves have been a valued member of the KIJHL for many years and we were very excited to celebrate a successful 50th season for KIJHL hockey in Spokane,” says commissioner Jeff Dubois in a release. “Unfortunately, we have reached a point where certainty around cross-border travel was necessary for all parties, including the Braves’ ownership group, facility, players and staff.”
The Braves play in the Kootenay Conference’s Neil Murdoch Division with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, Castlegar Rebels, Nelson Leafs, and Grand Forks Border Bruins. The Nitehawks also chose to go dark last season during COVID, but are committed to play this year, announcing their planned return to the ice last month.
Uncertainty whether Canadian teams could cross into the U.S. to play the Braves prevails, as the U.S. border remains closed to travelers from Canada.
“We are unable to proceed without knowing that the Braves and their Kootenay Conference opponents would be able to cross the border, and so this difficult decision was made,” said Dubois.
The Canadian government opened the border to Americans who have been fully vaccinated for non-essential travel on Aug. 9, but the U.S. border remains closed to fully-vaxed Canadian non-essential visitors.
“The Spokane Braves are very disappointed not to be able to participate in the upcoming KIJHL season,” says Braves owner Bob Tobiason. “We would like to thank all our volunteers and prospective players for their understanding. We look forward to rejoining the league in 2022.”
A revised 2021-22 KIJHL regular season schedule will be released once adjustments are made to reschedule games involving the nine remaining teams from the Kootenay Conference’s Neil Murdoch and Eddie Mountain divisions.