The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) has reduced the schedule from 52 to 47 regular season games.
The decision came about due to a packed schedule leading up to the Cyclone Taylor Junior B Championship.
The decrease in regular season games will result in some teams playing one more game on the road than at home, but it will switch each year.
The number of games in the playoff series will also be reduced. Instead of every series being a best-of-seven, this will now only apply to the first and final round. The other games will now be a best-of-five.
The KIJHL committee held its annual general meeting on June 24-26 in Osoyoos to discuss and organize these reductions.
KIJHL president Bill Ohlhausen says the changes will help teams prepare for the Cyclone Taylor Cup in early April, which will be hosted by the Creston Valley Thunder Cats.
“We had everything jammed up because we have four finals in the KIJHL, then we have the Cyclone. It falls within days.”
A key example of overplay was 100 Mile House Wranglers amazing, yet exhausting, run last year. The team played 85 games last season.
After defeating the Victoria Tigers for the Cyclone Taylor Cup on April 10, the Wranglers had to catch the ferry immediately after the championship to travel to Regina in time for its first game in the Keystone Cup on April 14.
Despite the amount of travel time and lack of rest in between games, 100 Mile House Wranglers Junior B Hockey Club president Tom Bachynski says he is against the decision.
“I’m a bit against the idea of cutting the games back. We are in a development league. The kids need to develop and every game they don’t get to play is development not earned.”
The changes will mean more home games on the weekends, which will produce larger turnouts and cut down travel costs.
However, Bachynski says the travel is one of the most important parts of the sport.
“The trips act as team-bonding experience. The players don’t talk negatively about them … there are so many memories made on the long travels.”
Bachynski adds he will vote to bring the season back to 52 games at the next KIJHL pre-AGM meeting in March 2017.
In addition to the game number reductions, clubs also voted for conference-only play for the coming season.
Ohlhausen says this will likely create more competition between teams as well as assist with distance issues and team expenses.
“We have the biggest area I think of any Junior B League.”
Bachynski was always against this decision.
“It was brilliant that we did the cross-over games early in the season. The weather wasn’t bad to drive in and it was a great experience for the team.”
The Wranglers will begin in Osoyoos on Sept. 9.