The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) has announced its cohort structure and groupings for the 2020-21 regular season, which is set to begin on Friday, Nov. 13, with all teams playing a 30-game schedule.
In order to meet the guidelines set forth by the B.C. Provincial Health Officer and Phase 3 of viaSport’s “Return to Sport” framework, KIJHL clubs will be placed into one of five cohorts. There will be a pair of four-team cohorts as well as a trio of three-team cohorts.
The North Okanagan Knights are part of the trio of three-team cohorts. They are grouped in with the Chase Heat and Kamloops Storm. The other three-team cohorts feature the Golden Rockets, Revelstoke Grizzlies and Sicamous Eagles, and the Kelowna Chiefs, Princeton Posse and Summerland Storm.
The four-team cohorts feature the eight teams in the Kootenays: Columbia Valley Rockies, Creston Valley Thundercats, Fernie Ghostriders and Kimberley Dynamiters in one cohort; Castlegar Rebels, Grand Forks Border Bruins, Nelson Leafs and Osoyoos Coyotes in the other.
In order to provide an equitable travel schedule and maximize the number of potential opponents, the season will be split into two phases for clubs participating in four-team cohorts and three phases for those clubs in three-team cohorts.
Phase 1 will begin on Friday, Nov. 13, and run for a total of six weeks, concluding Saturday, Dec. 19. All teams will play a total of 12 games during Phase 1, which would see the Knights play six games each against Chase and Kamloops.
“For us, this cohort works beautifully,” said Knights spokesperson Dallas Keller. “It’s a good set up for us as far as travel goes, an hour or so to each Kamloops and Chase, so there won’t be any overnight trips and the kids can sleep in their own beds.
“Chase is a veteran team that will be a good test for us, and Kamloops always has some good players and they’re much in the same boat as us.”
Phase 2 will begin Saturday, Jan. 2, following a 14-day Christmas break, and the teams in each cohort will shift. The Knights will be in cohort with Sicamous and Kelowna.
For clubs in four-team cohorts, Phase 2 will run through the remainder of the regular season and include a total of 18 games (six against each opponent).
For the three-team cohorts, Phase 2 will last a total of four weeks through Jan.23 and include eight regular-season games (four against each opponent).
Clubs in three-team cohorts will see the season conclude with eight additional games as part of Phase 3 following an additional 14-day break. Beginning Feb. 5, the composition of the three-team cohorts will change again for another four week period that includes eight games (four against each opponent).
Clubs in three-team cohorts will also play two additional games against a regional opponent in order to complete a 30-game regular season schedule.
The KIJHL will announce its playoff structure at a later date, as guidelines concerning Phase 3 competition and cohorts may change before March 2021.