By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
On the eve of the 2016-17 Manitoba Junior Hockey League season, Commissioner Kim Davis offered his comments on the new playoff format, former coaches, and the health of the league.
The MJHL enters this season with another new playoff format, though it’s not exactly a radical change. The league has done away with the ‘Survivor Series’ format, meaning the top eight teams will qualify for the playoffs and that’s it. If you finish ninth, 10th, or 11th, your season ends in late February.
“For five years we’ve had a ‘Survivor Series’, and the purpose of that was to allow teams that were close to the playoffs to get an extra game or two of action, and more importantly, to keep their local fan base interested later in the season when they might have been out of the playoffs under the older format.
“It didn’t turn out to be as successful as we had hoped, so we reverted to the format for this year with the top eight teams going into a best-of-seven series.”
The Winnipeg Blues made history as the only ‘Survivor Series” team that actually won the entire league, but that was when there were two divisions. Under the current format with only one division, the ninth and 10th place teams appear to have little chance at making any noise in the playoffs, never mind winning it all.
Davis also noted with one division and a balanced schedule, this format will allow the top eight teams to get in, no matter where they are in the province. In years past the former Sher-Wood and Addison Divisions took turns being stronger than the other and often a fifth place team from one of those divisions would have been good enough to be a playoff team in the other division.
Davis also commented on how the MJHL is not only a proving ground for players who want to play at higher levels, but for coaches as well. Former MJHL coaches David Anning and Don MacGillivray are now coaches with the Brandon Wheat Kings after honing their skills in the MJHL.
“We’re very proud of the accomplishments of our players, coaches and teams,” said Davis. “It’s a big part of our league for coaches to get these opportunities. When they’re working on a day-to-day basis they’re getting better and honing their craft.
“David and Don in particular have been doing this for a long time, so good on them, and on the Brandon Wheat Kings for having the confidence to give them those roles.”
The health of the league is always a concern for the commissioner of the MJHL, and Davis said he continues to work with governors from the 11 teams to ensure all are as successful as possible.
“There are some issues with a few teams in their ability to generate enough revenue to support the expenses that it takes to operate a club,” said Davis. “The board met last weekend, and we continue to meet to monitor and share information from a financial perspective. We have some teams that are doing very well, and some who face challenges.”
Davis also noted the fan base is changing in some areas of the province, with less young people in some communities, meaning they have to be adaptable in their business plans.
“We continue to find ways to raise money for teams, and the league has done a good job raising corporate money, and the teams share in that, so they’re getting great benefits from the efforts of Trevor Kennard (Director of Partnership Services).”