Given the ages of the participants, it is amazing how teams in the top junior leagues, both A and B levels, step up with discipline when the playoff season arises.
The results almost speak for themselves. In the first round of the KIJHL playoffs, despite wide disparities in regular season results in some series, there were 19 one-goal games, including nine which went into overtime and a few with empty net add-ons to the score, out of a total of 38 played. That is, half of all playoff games went down to the wire. There were no series sweeps.
In just 12 BCHL first-round games, there have been six one-goal margins and a couple of other final scores have been impacted by empty net goals. Three games have required overtime.
That evidence speaks to the intensity involved on behalf of all the players taking part. These are, after all, just kids from 16-20 years of age. Solid coaching and player commitment are everywhere to be found at the lower (than the professional CHL) junior levels.
That’s a reason to be a fan, even of under-performing teams, and a special reason to bemoan the fact that even quite talented Smoke Eater teams have had limited participation in the post-season opportunities that bring out these kids’ best, recently.
Here’s hoping there may be better tidings ahead in, “Next Year Country.”
If, that is, there is a next year. The Smoke Eaters, albeit suffering from the lack of post season income, actually have higher attendance than half of the teams in the BCHL during the regular season.
That has to mean there are several other clubs teetering on the edge of ruinous finances, private ownership or not, and there are also rumblings in some cities about the amount of public subsidy involved for BCHL franchises in those cities.
That means financing is a problem for the BCHL, not just the Smokies, or Surrey, or whomever. The league will need to deal with the issue this off-season, one hopes before the problem gets so bad franchises are closed or moved.
Lots of people in the Home of Champions support, in regular or infrequent, large and small, ways, keeping a Junior A team in Trail. Surrounding communities, too, know that having a junior A franchise at the heart of West Kootenay hockey is good for all levels of the game in the region (and businesses, too).
It would be a big positive towards keeping that possibility alive if, when the Smoke Eater AGM comes around, lots of people show up for the discussions. Nobody needs to volunteer for anything, but everybody that would like the team to continue as is (except for better on ice results) should make themselves knowledgeable about the issues surrounding that survival.
Volunteering to help out, even in small things, would certainly be helpful, however.
Meanwhile, the Nitehawks are scrambling at times but getting the job done. Stay tuned to local media for dates and times for games as the playoffs roll onwards. Very, very, seldom are the games sold out, and junior B teams, too, require that in-house income to thrive.