The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) will look a little bit different next season, according to information released following the league’s annual general meeting.
Starting next season, the Survivor Series will be scrapped in favour of seeding the league’s top eight teams according to points in the playoffs. Division leaders will no longer be automatically seeded as the league’s top three teams. The SJHL will still feature three divisions of four teams each, but winning a division title in a weak group would no longer guarantee a playoff berth.
For the past several seasons, the teams ranked from seventh to 10th in league standings would play a best-of-three playdown series to advance in the playoffs, with the seventh-place team meeting the tenth-place team and eighth and ninth-seeded clubs facing off.
The Bombers played in the Survivor Series in each of the past two years, winning both times.
If the new rules were in place last season, the Bombers would have finished as the league’s sixth seed instead of seventh, having finished with more points than Viterra Division winners Estevan. Under the new rules, the Bombers would have faced the third-seed Melfort Mustangs in the first round. Second-place Battlefords would have played Estevan, pitting two division leaders against one another, while the league-leading Nipawin Hawks would play the Yorkton Terriers in the first round – the same team that eliminated the Hawks in a seven-game upset this past season.
The league will adopt a hybrid icing rule, combining elements of both traditional touch and no-touch icing. The new rule makes the SJHL the second junior A league in Canada to adopt hybrid icing, joining the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL)
Previously, icing was called after a puck was shot down the ice by the offensive team and recovered by the defensive team after crossing the defending team’s goal line. Touch icing can lead to two or more players racing to touch the puck, sometimes ending with high-speed collisions into the end boards.
With hybrid icing, if a puck dumped in by an offensive team crosses the goal line and a player on the defensive team is ahead in touching the puck before the faceoff dots, play will be blown dead.
New rules on supplemental discipline were also announced. The league will form a discipline committee to review incidents that require punishment from the league.
Starting this season, the committee will be tasked with hearing appeals to suspensions levied by the league. In the past, Chow would listen to appeals himself and decide whether to increase or decrease a suspension after the appeal.