SIJHL looking at commissioner, draft

Think you can do a better job than NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman?
Know the game really well? Are you a problem-solver who is not afraid to take action when it is required, but also have an unbiased ear when discussions are put forth?
If you answered yes, then the Superior International Hockey League may be interested in you.
If this reads like a job posting, that’s because it essentially is.
You see, the SIJHL is looking for a full-time commissioner and though the league hasn’t been shopping the market quite yet, it will be putting its full efforts towards such a task based on a decision at its annual meeting in Thunder Bay a few weeks ago.
“What the teams are looking for is a consistency with the other leagues in the country, where a board of governors, which essentially consists of the teams, sets policy and the commissioner does everything and carries it out,” noted SIJHL vice-president Ron Whitehead.
For the past four seasons, the SIJHL had a volunteer board of directors, but didn’t have someone to do the day-to-day work.
“Now, this one person will do it all and it will have to become a paid position,” said Whitehead. “They are looking for that commissioner to attract and maintain some corporate sponsorships.”
But in a league that has been losing money almost from the get-go, where does it plan on getting the financial resources necessary to support a full-time salary?
That is the question asked by Borderland Thunder general manager Brent Tookenay, who believes it is a good idea to have a full-time commissioner but just doesn’t see how the league will be able to afford it.
“I believe that that’s the way to go. I just don’t know if it’s viable or not,” said Tookenay, who suggested the position should pay at least $30,000 per year.
The suggestion of getting a full-time commissioner follows word that a few members of the executive have stepped down, leaving Whitehead the lone member.
Triple bypass surgery caused J.P. Heino to step down. Harvey Fedell won’t be returning as the commissioner and Byron Maggrah no longer will be the league’s referee-in-chief.
“What happened was that some of these fellas were original members from the beginning [the SIJHL is entering its fifth season] and they felt they’ve served as much as they can and maybe it was time to bring in some new blood,” noted Whitehead.
Implementing a draft also was discussed at the SIJHL’s meeting.
One of the main concerns the now four-team league (the Thunder announced yesterday they would not be part of the SIHJHL) has had is the dominance of one team over the others.
The Fort William North Stars, for instance, have been almost untouchable for the past two seasons, compiling a 42-2-4 regular-season mark in 2004-05 and then going undefeated in the playoffs to advance to the Dudley Hewitt Cup.
A draft should help negate this kind of dominance.
“The intent is not to limit the North Stars, but the intent is to bring everyone else up to the same level they are at,” Whitehead stressed.
There will be two components to the draft, which is scheduled to take place in early June. The first will involve the selection of 17- and 18-year-old players while the second will involve the implementation of a 45-50 man protected list.
“There are some teams that are for it [the KC Bulldogs, K&A Golden Hawks, and Dryden Ice Dogs] and some that are against it [the North Stars],” said Tookenay.
And, of course, expansion was brought up once again.
“There’s a few interested parties, but it’s hard to pin down if they are ready for this year or if it’s more of a next year kind of thing,” said Whitehead, who only would say the interest came from within Northwestern Ontario as well as northern Minnesota.
That will be discovered soon enough as the league will be sitting down to organize the upcoming season schedule in early June and it obviously will need to know who’s in and who’s not.
Given the Thunder had been without ownership, Whitehead had offered his services to help the team find a buyer. Those services, though, had not been called upon.
“I have offered to speak to any groups they are pursuing,” he said, adding he had not been asked to do so as yet.
“They’ve said that they know their community better, and that’s fine, but if they need my assistance, I would provide it,” Whitehead remarked.
Tookenay, meanwhile, was disappointed more questions couldn’t be answered at the annual meeting.
“Basically, there’s not a heck of a lot that came out of it,” he charged. “There is no expansion to talk about.”

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