After previously announcing the schedule for the coming KIJHL season, the league has now had to make a number of changes as the Spokane Braves have announced they will have to withdraw for this season.
The Braves have notified the league that they will not be able to commit to operating this season by the KIJHL-set deadline of August 1, 2022.
The problem is an inability to fill an entire roster of vaccinated players, says League Commissioner Jeff Dubois.
“The Braves have been working hard over the last number of months in preparation to rejoin the KIJHL this fall and celebrate their 50th season,” he said in a press release. “The Braves’ primary challenge has been recruiting players at a time when athletes and team staff must be fully vaccinated in order to enter into Canada. Despite their best efforts, the Braves look unlikely to be able to fill a roster of players who meet that requirement, and we reached a point where a decision needed to be made as to whether our season would proceed with or without Spokane. To be clear, we fully support those measures that have been taken to keep our communities safe from COVID, and we look forward to the Spokane Braves rejoining the KIJHL as soon as they are able to do so.”
The Braves have not played since the onset of the COVID pandemic, but according to Braves owner Bob Tobiason, the intention is to play next season.
The withdrawal means a number of schedule changes.
The five Bill Ohlhausen Division teams that were originally scheduled to visit Spokane this season will instead play an additional road game against a Doug Birks Division opponent. For Doug Birks Division teams, these additional games will replace home games previously scheduled against the Braves. These five games are as follows:
• Friday, October 28th: Kelowna Chiefs at Revelstoke Grizzlies
• Saturday, October 29th: Princeton Posse at Sicamous Eagles
• Friday, December 9th: Osoyoos Coyotes at Chase Heat
• Saturday, December 10th: North Okanagan Knights at 100 Mile House Wranglers
• Saturday December 17th: Summerland Steam at Kamloops Storm
The five Eddie Mountain Division teams that were scheduled to play two games each against Spokane will instead make up those games against divisional opponents. These five games are as follows:
• Tuesday, January 10th: Fernie Ghostriders at Creston Valley Thunder Cats
• Tuesday, January 31st: Creston Valley Thunder Cats at Kimberley Dynamiters
• Sunday, February 5th: Kimberley Dynamiters at Golden Rockets
• To Be Announced: Columbia Valley Rockies at Fernie Ghostriders
• To Be Announced: Golden Rockets at Columbia Valley Rockies
Two additional games between Eddie Mountain Division and Neil Murdoch Division opponents have been rescheduled:
• Friday, November 4th: Golden Rockets at Beaver Valley Nitehawks (previously scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 6th)
• Friday, November 18th: Columbia Valley Rockies at Castlegar Rebels (previously scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 20th)
The four remaining Neil Murdoch Division teams — the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, Castlegar Rebels, Grand Forks Border Bruins and Nelson Leafs — will make up their six cancelled games against Spokane by playing two additional games (one home and one away) against each divisional opponents. These games have been added to the KIJHL master schedule.
Adjustments to the Kootenay Conference playoff format will be announced at a later date.