On the eve of the 2015-16 Manitoba Junior Hockey League season, Commissioner Kim Davis took time to talk about the season that was, and the season that is to come. He also offered his observations on players leaving the MJHL for other leagues, including players leaving for American teams, resulting in some major holes for some teams to fill.
Looking back on last year, Davis said he was impressed with how competitive teams were in a year where Portage loaded up for their RBC Cup run, and offered his praise to the Terriers for finally bringing a national championship back to Manitoba.
“The season was a very good one throughout the regular season and playoffs,” said Davis. “Portage seemed to march through the playoffs, but the games I saw were tough games to win.
“And the biggest thing to me in regards to the results was that I was just so happy for the players in Portage,” he added. “And more generally for the coaches and the organization, but my first thought was how happy I was for the players who played such great hockey throughout the playoffs, and to win a national championship is the pinnacle of what they can achieve in the sport at this level.”
Looking ahead, with no team hosting a Western Canada Cup or the RBC Cup (as has been the case in recent seasons), Davis is expecting all teams to enter the season with thoughts on winning a championship.
“I’ve talked with a few coaches in the league in the past few weeks, and almost all of them expect this will be a very competitive season,” said Davis. “Who knows who’s going to be the top team this year – it could very well be a different team – but who knows?”
Davis then spoke of teams losing players to American teams, and receiving only cash back – often times only a fraction of what they might fetch if traded to a Canadian team. But due to international agreements between Canada and the United States, there’s little that can be done by Davis. But he notes the MJHL prides itself of developing players for other levels of hockey, and that aiding players in their goals is part of what junior A hockey is all about.
“Ultimately our league supports players in their choice to play where they feel is best for them,” said Davis. “Obviously at the local level they want to have the best team, but at the end of the day, teams exist to provide opportunities to players to advance.
“And some moves don’t seem to make sense because they don’t seem like advancement, but if that’s the path the player chooses, and we have to respect and support that.”
Davis adds he knows this is frustrating for teams and the league.
The commissioner said the MJHL will also continue to raise the profile of the league through sponsorship opportunities, and try to build off a year where the MJHL was most definitely in the spotlight.
“It’s one of those things where you have to do something every year,” said Davis. “We’re also going to continue to reach out to potential players, meeting with them and their parents, and offering camps in the spring. This will be more of a continuation of what we’ve already begun in helping to build the brand of this league.”