The Sicamous Eagles are ‘business as usual’ while the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League lobbies to reclassify as a Junior A league.
The announcement that the KIJHL had submitted an application to reclassify from Junior B to Junior A came on June 22, after the league’s annual general meeting held in Sicamous June 17.
If the application is approved, all 20 KIJHL teams would adopt new operating standards for the 2023-24 season, according to a league press release. The decision comes after the BC Hockey League separated from Hockey Canada earlier this year, leaving “a major hole in sanctioned junior hockey programming in our province.”
While he was told all official communication has to come from the KIJHL, Sicamous Eagles director and assistant coach Rob Sutherland said the teams all support the application and it was something that had to be done after the BCHL’s move.
“The concern is there’s no longer Junior A in hockey and we need to be able to affiliate up to Junior A teams,” said Sutherland. “Or, we need to be Junior A ourselves.”
With the absence of a Junior A team, the levels to which a junior hockey player can advance are disrupted.
“When the BCHL left Hockey Canada, I can no longer affiliate a player there, and for me, that’s 20 minutes down the road,” he said, mentioning his close relationship with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. “I consider that my second home, I’ve coached there, and now we can’t work together.”
Sutherland said the move means he can’t move players up in leagues, which puts them at a disadvantage.
“Now I don’t have that at all, there’s just no Junior A in B.C. at all,” he said. “Those players now need to leave the province pretty much.”
Sutherland said the league executives have been meeting since the BCHL announced its departure from Hockey Canada and teams wanted to bring up the application at the year-end AGM.
“We have the support of our minor hockey leagues and our arenas,” he said.
The Eagles will be moving forward as usual, in off-season and into regular play. Sutherland said it doesn’t matter for the season if they get reclassified as Junior A or continue as Junior B as the team, and the majority of the league, already operate at the standards required for Junior A leagues.
“In the end, we still have a team to run and players to recruit,” said Sutherland.
So far, the Eagles have made one trade as Reid Tisdale went to the Campbell River Storm for future considerations. The team has signed Hayden Evans from Revelstoke, Owen Dewitt from Sicamous, Everett Boutcher from Lake Country, Devon Barclay from Grande Prairie, Caleb de Hoog from Salmon Arm and Josh Greenough from Edmonton.
Nick Deschenes, Eagles head coach and general manager, attended the Coaches Site Conference in Michigan June 22 to learn and make the team better, said Sutherland.