SIJHL Unveils inaugural playoff format

The Superior International Junior Hockey League will run its inaugural two-round playoff format between March 12 and April 15, the league announced yesterday.
As first reported in Friday’s Daily Bulletin, it was decided at Monday night’s executive meeting in Thunder Bay that the top four teams from the regular season will advance to the best-of-seven semi-finals.
First will play fourth while second will battle third (the top seed will have the home-ice advantage).
The final also will be a best-of-seven affair, with the winner advancing to the Dudley Hewitt Cup—the Central Canada Junior ‘A’ championship—against the North-ern Ontario Junior Hockey Association champs.
The winner of that series then will move on to the Royal Bank (formerly Centennial) Cup in Halifax on May 4-12 against five other teams for the national junior ‘A’ championship.
SIJHL president Jerry Blazino said the dates and format for the SIJHL-NOJHA showdown will be announced next month, adding a Royal Bank Cup rep (called Central Canada) must be decided by April 27-28 in accordance with Canadian Hockey Association rules.
Three of the four SIJHL teams—the Borderland Thunder, Dryden Ice Dogs, and Feathermen Hawks—already have qualified for the playoffs.
The Thunder Bay KC Bulldogs will be awarded the fourth berth because the league’s two American junior ‘B’ teams—the Iron Range Yellow Jackets and Northwest Wisconsin Knights—only are playing an exhibition schedule this season.
The Thunder Bay Snowplowing Wolves are a distant last-place in the standings.
The SIJHL actually was the first Ontario league to reserve a spot through the CHA to compete at the provincials this season—and were close to having its inaugural champ go straight to the nationals as the NOJHA and Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League (southern Ontario) hinted resentment in December that a new league would compete against them.
The 36-team OPJHL, whose champion traditionally has competed with the NOJHA champ for the Dudley Hewitt Cup, opted to sit out this year when its massive playoff schedule couldn’t be completed before the above dates.
“Our schedule and playoff schedule was done in mid-July,” Charlie Macoun, the OPJHL’s chairman of the board, said from his Newmarket office earlier this month.
“Nothing came up on this until we were into our schedule. You can’t alter the program,” he argued.
Macoun said he rejected the SIJHL’s idea of cutting their post-season short to compete in a three-way playoff. “That would be defeating the purpose of why our kids are in this to begin with,” he reasoned.
NOJHA commissioner Julio Navarro said extra expenses played a role in their decision to continue to play for the Dudley Hewitt Cup. “By not participating in a [provincial] series in our home rinks, we would be out financially,” he noted.
Blazino said the SIJHL has every right to want to play for the national title.