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Visors, expansion, a new waiver wire: what to expect for the upcoming SJHL season


The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) is coming off a strong season for many of its clubs, but changes are coming following the league’s annual general meeting in mid-June.

That’s all according to SJHL Commissioner Kyle McIntyre, who spoke with CTV News at length following the meetings at Jackfish near North Battleford.


On May 1 of this year, the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) made a decision that turned some heads in the hockey world – they broke away from Hockey Canada, with the league looking for “more options” for players.

The move will allow for recruiting of 16 and 17 year old players, which is currently against Hockey Canada rules.

According to McIntryre, the SJHL will not follow suit.

“We’re proud members of the CJHL [Canadian Junior Hockey League],” said McIntyre.

“We’re proud members of Hockey Canada, (but) of course, there’s also discussion … We are still members with Hockey Canada because with Hockey Canada, we get additional insurance, we have quality officiating. Our teams and our players can participate in all the programs of excellence.”

McIntyre said — for the time being — the league will stick with Hockey Canada.


When it comes to the financials of the league, McIntyre said a lot of focus went into improving the game within the last year. He didn’t go into specifics, but said the league nearly hit lofty goals set early in the year.

“We made a significant improvement over the year previous. We’re trying to be solvent as a league, we’re trying to be professional as a league,” he said.

“We had a very good year, not only on the ice, and in terms of our fan attendance around the league. We also had a very good year financially. The SJHL isn’t having a bake sale or a garage sale this summer in order to pay salaries, so that’s very good.”

In terms of the teams, McIntyre asked all teams to give their comparative financials by Sept. 1.

The league also brought in an idea to make all 12 teams strong and competitive on the ice by implementing a resolution of the “elements of an effective franchise.”

The work focuses on being competitive on the ice, with player recruitment and retention, and business and operations.

“Typically our teams generate revenue through sponsorship, through Ag projects, through fundraisers, through season ticket sales,” said McIntyre. “All those things, if you’re a team that is super competitive … but if you’re not doing things that are intentional [you’re] not going to have fans in the building.”

The push now is to help these teams to get stronger on the ice, be more competitive and offering a positive player experience.


The SJHL boasts 12 teams across the province, stretching into Manitoba with Flin Flon, but could the league be looking at expansion?

That’s a possibility, said McIntyre, but noted that nothing is set in stone to date.

He identified that three groups or communities have expressed interest and have had discussions with the league.

“I think we probably have the talent pool in Saskatchewan,” said McIntyre.

Communities need to meet certain criteria to be brought into the league, the commissioner added before hinting at possible destinations for the SJHL.

“I know at some point, White City, if they are able to annex some land from the RM, I know they were looking at a multi-purpose, multi-sheet facility,” McIntyre said. “Community of Meadow Lake is also building a new arena. I’m hearing that that is going to be state of the art and quite innovative. I’ve had some informal overtures from them, but nothing concrete just yet.”

Financials, good partners and competitiveness on and off the ice are key points to bringing in a team to the league.

McIntyre did not share the community of the third group who discussions have been had with.


A lot was talked about through the 2022-23 season about the use of visors at the Junior A level. From imposed deadlines, to changes back and forth, the league and Hockey Canada have found a way to bridge the gap.

But that wasn’t without a survey that was given to all players in the SJHL.

Within that survey, McIntyre said, 91 per cent of SJHL players said they would be fine with paying extra for insurance or signing a waiver, if they were able to keep the visors. 276 players were surveyed.

But, that isn’t going to be the case.

Beginning next year, all players born after Dec. 31, 2004 will have to wear full facial protection when playing, grandfathering the new rule in.

By 2025-26, the entire CJHL are set to be wearing the full face shields.

McIntyre said he sees both sides, with thousands of dollars in dental bills, or looking at the visors as somewhat of an honour for making Junior A.

“They have aspirations because they get to take off those face masks, and so really, it’s kind of a milestone or a goal they have … I hope we look at data, critically. I hope there’s not an increase in head contact. I hope there’s not an increase in concussions,” he said.

“I hope [we] examine the data and we have conversations about whether that is working and it is doing what it is intended to do, or whether it’s not working.”


The thought of a waiver wire in the league isn’t new. The SJHL went away from the wire during COVID.

The ideology behind the new waiver wire is that every Saskatchewan player who is sent for a developmental fee to a team outside of the province, will now need to be put on a wire where each team gets a chance to match the player developmental fee, or reopen discussions for a trade for the player.

“I saw a number of our kids, who we played at the Centennial Cup, that could have been on the Saskatchewan waiver …. That was problematic,” McIntyre said.

A big push was keeping many of the Sask. born players in the province.

If additional claims are made for one particular player, the teams will have one opportunity to rescind their player on the wire, per year.

“I want to see our Saskatchewan kids to play on our SaskatchewanSJ teams,” McIntyre said. “It’s not to hold [players] back.”


2022-23 was a real growth year in the SJHL.

614 fans were averaged per game in the regular season, with 1,134 averaged in the post season. McIntyre said 260,000 people attended a game in the 12 team league.

He added that 2023’s graduating class had more commitments for scholarships this year than in the last 15 years.

“The league is alive and well,” he said. “We are very pleased with the progress we made, and now of course, we need to keep that going.”

The league begins the 2023-24 campaign on Sept. 22, with training camps opening on Aug. 25. Top Stories

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