It was a big past few days for the SJHL.  First the announcement of the 10-year deal with Canalta Hotels to be a major league sponsor, and yesterday the announcement of a whole bunch of changes coming next season.  

Here are the bare bones:

-League will reduce the 20-year old cap to eight next season and seven in 2013-14.

-Season Schedule drops from 58 to 54 games.  Apparently the shift involves moving divisional games up to eight across the board, and dropping the number of inter-divisional games to two.  Mostly weekend games.

-Season starts later.  This was already partially announced, but we know training camps will start September 5th, 2012.

Other announcements:

-League signed a new three year deal with Sherwood to be the equipment supplier.  Option for a fourth year.

-Melfort Mustangs will host the SJHL Showcase over the December 14th weekend.

-The Estevan Bruins will host the Hall of Fame Game next season.

Keep reading to get my thoughts on the changes.

What's in a Name?


600,000 dollars apparently...

From the SJHL Website:
Introducing the Canalta Cup:

SJHL President Bill Chow is proud to announce a new 10 year partnership with Canalta Hotels. The agreement includes renaming the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Championship Trophy to the Canalta Cup.

This landmark agreement between Canalta and the SJHL will also see the hotel chain contribute more than $600,000 in partnership revenue to the League over the next 10 years.

“Canalta’s partnership with the SJHL shows their commitment to supporting long-standing Saskatchewan traditions,” said Bill Chow, SJHL President. “We are excited to have them join our SJHL corporate family.”

Canalta Hotels, established in 1979, currently has six hotels in five Saskatchewan markets, Weyburn, Moosomin, Tisdale, Humboldt and Melfort. The family owned business is also in the construction phase of properties in Esterhazy and Shaunavon. 

“It is an honour to have our company name on one of the most respected and cherished championship trophies in hockey,” said Gary Hoffert, Regional Vice President of Canalta Hotels. “This unique agreement helps promote our hotel properties in the Saskatchewan marketplace.”

The battle for the Canalta Cup will begin when the SJHL playoffs start at the end of February. 

So how does this affect the SJHL?  Well, I'm actually not too sure.  It will be interesting to see where the $60k per year goes.  In any case, it's a decent sized sponsorship and a new one for the league at that.  Attracting new sponsors will be key for the league as operating costs continue to rise.

If this sponsorship means we'll be staying at more Canalta hotels on the road, I won't argue.  Pretty nice rooms, which makes sense considering most of the places are pretty new.  There's your sponsorship dollars at work Canalta.  I'll try and get a hold of Bill Chow  and maybe have something to add later today.

Here's a Christmas present for Ice Wolves fans.  After completing a semester of school, defenceman Byron Sorenson will return to the Wolves lineup in time for their first game back from the break.

This is a huge "free" acquisition for the Ice Wolves and turns their defence into one of the top units in the league.  If you're unfamiliar with him, Sorenson was a major reason the blue-line was able to solidify last season when he arrived from the BCHL.  He finished the season as the Ice Wolves' Co-Defenceman of the Year and was a vital part of the Championship run. 

Here is Sorenson's stat-line:  
Sorenson's offensive numbers aren't exactly stunning, but he's effective rushing the puck and starting things from the Ice Wolves' zone.  Really, it's his defensive play the Wolves will be happiest to get back.  Sorenson isn't a overly physical defenceman, but his positioning is fantastic and he's very effective with an active stick.  Sorenson's arrival immediately moves him into the top three on the La Ronge blue line.  The new depth chart could look something like this:

Weisensel (91)
Sorenson (91)
Ritchie (92)
Vandenameele (92)
Bula (91)
Sawyer (93)
Cook (93)
Hope (93) (will log minutes up front)

With the additions of Ritchie and Sorenson over the last month, the Wolves blue line passed from a pretty young outfit, to an experienced one.  This sets up the Wolves to have a championship calibre defence and be they're well set for next season with the youth still on the line.

Obviously there will be some questions about conditioning, but this has been in the works for a while now.  When Sorenson arrived last season, he hadn't played a game in a while, but fit right into the action so I wouldn't be too concerned.  He'll join the team on the 29th when the Ice Wolves get back at it, so he'll have plenty of time to get back into shape.

As the Wolves continue to add pieces, they seem to be gearing up for another run.  The addition of Byron Sorenson puts La Ronge in a real position concentrate on some of the available forwards at the upcoming Trade Deadline.

It's an exciting time for Ice Wolves fans coming up on the stretch drive. For now, though, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

When the Ice Wolves score their first goal tomorrow night (Friday) against the Humboldt Broncos, let the teddy bears rain.  Yes with the Christmas Season upon us, it's time for a good old fashioned Teddy Bear Toss at the Mel.

The team is asking fans to bring a new plush toy to the game to hurl on the ice after the Ice Wolves score their first of the night.  Plastic bags will be provided at the Mel to make sure those bears make it to the well deserving arms of kids good as new.

To get you in the spirit of whipping soft toys onto the playing surface, here's this year's toss in Calgary.
When it comes down to it; throwing animals on the ice is second nature for Wolves fans.  Though they tend to be of the organic, frozen and slightly slimy variety as opposed to the non-organic, soft and cuddly variety.

I hope to see a packed Mel tomorrow night, full of fans with bears in hand.  I'll have mine up in the press box ready to go, maybe try for the trick shot off someone's helmet.

Also coming up tomorrow, I'll have a guest announcer for colour commentary in Braden Malsbury from Global TV in Saskatoon.  A former schoolmate of mine coming up to visit La Ronge for the weekend.  He was kind enough to help me out on colour when the Wolves visited Yorkton last year in the SJHL Finals.

I'll have a preview of the Ice Wolves and Broncos latest meeting on the blog tomorrow.

The big move (literally) from the Ice Wolves was the acquisition of forward Brennan Wright from the North Bay Trappers of the NOJHL.  If that team sounds oddly familiar, it's because Ice Wolves Co-Captain, Matt Weisensel was their Captain last season.  The answer to the next question is yes, they were teammates in North Bay.

Wright comes with some Major Junior experience, spending his sixteen year old season with the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL and the early going of his seventeen year old season with the Sarnia Sting.  He's well travelledt to be sure as the Wolves will be his sixth team since the 
'07-'08 season.

In 50 games with North Bay (this season and last), Wright has 32 points, so some decent numbers coming to La Ronge.  

Here's his full stat-line.
The question becomes, who does he play with?  Wright is listed as a centre which would lead me to believe he joins on with Aaron Enns and Zac Ashdown.  Unfortunately that could force Graham Smerek down a line in a season where he's really showing some offensive spark to go with already stellar two-way play.  That said, we won't know how Wright fits into the lineup until he's here early next week.  Bob Beatty hopes to have Wright in the lineup for Tuesday's contest against the Nipawin Hawks.

The Ice Wolves have also reassigned a couple of players.  Scott Helmkay will join the Tri-Town Thunder of the PJHL while Tyson Valette "is going to pursue some options outside the province as it looks right now."  They're both really good kids and it's unfortunate they became victims of the numbers game.  Good luck the rest of the season guys!

Next up on the blog will be a preview of tonight's contest with the Kindersley Klippers.

Sorry I'm running a little late.  Live blog should be up and running soon.
If the Ice Wolves want to win their first ever Anavet Cup, they'll have to do it this year.  In 2013, the Anavet will be no more, replaced by a new Western Canadian Championship tournament featuring the champions from the four western leagues and a host team.  The top two teams from the event move on to the RBC Cup.

As Dan Marshall of 106.9 The Wolf out in B.C. reported, the 2013 WCC will be held in B.C. from April 26th to May 5th and the Nanaimo Clippers are hoping to host the event.

Here's a link to his interview with Clippers Owner Ken Wagner.

SJHL President Bill Chow is confident the Championship will provide solid sponsorship opportunities.

"Giving them (host team/league) more time to prepare for the tournament, they would be awarded the tournament there would be a bidding process similar to an RBC", said Chow in a phone interview, "So then they would be able to allow them to have time to solicit their corporate sponsors within the community and surrounding areas."

You can check out my interview with Bill Chow here.

I'm excited for this change for a number of reasons.  Yes, it's hard to top the excitement of a seven game series, but teams will be a lot less beat up when they get to the RBC Cup, giving Western representatives a better opportunity to present their best game.  It should provide better exposure for all Western Junior A players as well.  It will be a lot easier for scouts to attend this tournament than hitting up the Doyle Cup and the Anavet Cup. 

It could also be a more viable option for smaller communities to host than an event like the RBC Cup.  With less profile, no need for the standard Hockey Canada sponsorship, it can be an event held in places like La Ronge or Nipawin.  Of course those are examples of smaller centres not considering the facilities.  I think it's pretty easy to guess who will host the event the first time 'round for the SJHL (provided a bid is entered).

Those are just a couple of things I like about the change, but I'm curious and excited to see how it goes in 2013.

What do you think of the new path to the RBC Cup?

The Ice Wolves have completed their first 'real' trade of the season, acquiring defenceman Brennan Ritchie ('92) from the Steinbach Pistons of the MJHL.  Going the other way is forward Johney Cormier ('92).  Good luck in Steinbach, Johney!  It's unfortunate to see a player with Cormier's skill heading out, but you have to give something to get something.  From a statistical standpoint, the Ice Wolves picked up a valuable asset.

For a team that's so young on the back-end, especially with the retirement of David Greyeyes and an injury to Alex Vandenameele, experience is valuable.  Ritchie brings just that as he already has two successful MJHL seasons under his belt.

Here are Ritchie's stats from elite prospects.  Again, sorry about the headings.  I'll try and sort that out, headings are (Ssn, Team, League, GP, G, A, P, PIM).
As you can see, Ritchie had some fairly impressive offensive numbers in his first two seasons.  He's a little off of his traditional points per game, but there are any number of reasons for that.  I would expect he'll get work on the second powerplay unit as the Wolves don't have a ton of offensive depth in their 
blue-line and it would be great to have a secondary option to Brett Hope on the point.

The Ice Wolves are in Melfort tomorrow night.  I'll try to get a post up in the morning, probably just a quick hit.  

Talk to you then!

I'll start by apologizing for the lack of a true recap of this weekend's action.  It was almost done when I went to copy something into the blog and it magically crashed and deleted my entire post.

I was going to put this on to the end of the recap, but instead I'll write a dedicated post on the blow to the head penalty.

At 8:33 of the third period, Marc-Andre Carre received a blow to the head penalty (2 minutes, 10 misconduct).  My issue is not with him receiving a penalty on the play as I said on my broadcast I felt he could have earned a charging call.  Both Josh Lewis (my colour commentator on the evening) and I felt principle point of contact was the body, though the head was contacted later in the collision and impacted the glass.  

Here's the rule as stated in Section 1 of the Jr. A Supplement:


The following situations shall be subject to suspension:

1.1 Illegal Act: If a player is fouled or hit illegally, for which a penalty is being assessed, and as a result hits his head on the glass, ice or the boards and is injured, this shall be construed as a Blow to the Head and a major and game misconduct or match penalty shall be assessed.

• Major Penalty – minimum 2 game suspension.

• Match Penalty – minimum 3 game suspension.

1.2 Direct Blow to the Head: If a player raises his stick, hands, forearm or elbow to hit an opponent in the head area, or deliberately drives his stick, forearm, elbow or gloved hand into the player’s head in any manner, it shall be called a Blow to the Head and shall receive a minor and 10 minute misconduct, or a major and game misconduct, or match penalty.

• Minor Penalties – a player upon receiving his 3rd minor penalty for hit to the head shall result in a 2 game suspension and a 2 game suspension for each subsequent minor in the same season.

• Major Penalty – automatic minimum 2 game suspension.

• Match Penalty – automatic minimum 3 game suspension.Junior A Supplement – Players Handbook Page 8

You'll notice that the hit doesn't really fit into either of these descriptions.  Sure it could slide into the the Illegal Act section, but that's reserved for injuries and the Bruins player wasn't injured on the play.  It also wasn't a direct blow to the head based on the lack of 'shoulder' in the wording.  I mention that because it would be entirely possible for the referee to see the play differently than I did and deem the head the principle point of contact.  So how does it become a penalty?

Danyluk (
Ice Wolves fans have some fond memories of Joel Danyluk as he was a part of the goaltending tandem that led La Ronge to its first SJHL Championship.  

Last season, he played for the Estevan Bruins and was awarded the Contiki Tours Community Player award as the player who gave back the most to his community.

He won a 21-day European Tour from Contiki Tours, which is a pretty sweet deal.  He went on that trip this summer and he brought along some jersey's with him to represent the SJHL on the other side of the pond.  How'd the trip go?  Glad you asked.  From this video, it looks like it went pretty well.

That's a serious video.  I didn't even know you could upload a 20 minute video to youtube.  Glad you had a good time in Europe, Joel!

Danyluk and Bartko (2010) (
Danyluk now guards the pipes for the Augustana Vikings in the ACAC.  He goes up against former teammate, Adam Bartko on Wednesday as the Vikings take on the SAIT Trojans.

Both are representing the SJHL pretty well as rookies on the ACAC goaltending leaderboard.  

Danyluk sits with a 3-1 record to go with 2.25 GAA and 0.926 Sv% in his four games played.

There's an article coming soon in the SJHL Magazine about his experiences, so look for that soon.