Game On Magazine September 2015 - Page 64

THE NEW LOOK KJHL: Here Come the Islanders! The head coach and GM of the Selkirk Fishermen, Chris Poponick, believes his hockey club has the tools to repeat as Keystone Junior Hockey League champions. The toolbox will have to be full because he also knows that with a new team in the league, the schedule will be just a bit tougher. By Scott Taylor Photos by Jeff Miller and James Carey Lauder Lundar is now in the South Division 60 GAME 64 GAMEON ON SEPTEMBER 2015 V aughn Blacksmith is glad to be back. Blacksmith was a member of the board of the Cross Lake Islanders back in 2008 when it became apparent that the team could longer compete in the Keystone Junior B Hockey League. These days, however, Blacksmith has a spring in his step. After helping the band at Cross Lake work a little extra hard on its application to the league, the Islanders will now be re-admitted to the KJHL this season. As the team’s governor, Blacksmith couldn’t possibly be more pumped. “It’s a big step for us and we’re pleased to have the Islanders back in the league,” said KJHL board member and director of officials Grant Heather. “About 10 years ago or so there were two Jr. B leagues in Manitoba – the Northern Junior B League in the north, of course, and the Manitoba Junior B League in the south. When the Northern League folded, Cross Lake and Norway House approached the teams in the south and asked about a merger. When it was agreed that we would merge, we changed the name to the Keystone Jr. B Hockey League. Cross Lake was in the league for three years before there was some financial turmoil and they decided to step back. But we’ve accepted their application to return to the league and we’re thrilled to have them back.” The brand new Islanders will be the league’s 10th team and their presence has resulted in the creation of two divisions. The North Division will feature the Islanders along with four existing teams: the Peguis Juniors, the Norway House North Stars, the Fisher River Hawks and the OCN Storm. The South Division will include the league champion Selkirk Fishermen, the North Winnipeg Satellites, the St. Malo Warriors, the Lundar Falcons and the Arborg Ice Dawgs. The teams will play a 34-game schedule: six games against the other four teams within their division and two games each against the five teams in the other division. As for Blacksmith, he and his community are just thrilled to be back. “Our community is very excited about the return of our team to the KJHL,” said Blacksmith enthusiastically. “We don’t sell season tickets so we don’t know what the ticket response will be, but the feedback I’ve received has been nothing but positive.” The Islanders will be heading back into a highly competitive, travel-heavy