The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) will officially open their regular season on November 13th, but only 17 of 20 teams will participate in the shortened 30-game season.

The Beaver Valley Nitehawks, 100 Mile House Wranglers, and Spokane Braves are all three teams opting out of the 2020/21 KIJHL season. Spokane can not participate due to the ongoing travel restrictions between Canada and the United States, but the Nitehawks and Wranglers have both decided to take a one-year leave of absence.

“The Boards of the 100 Mile House Wranglers and Beaver Valley Nitehawks have made the difficult decision to go dark for the year due to the financial impact and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, and we respect their decisions,” said Jeff Dubois, Commissioner of the KIJHL. “The situation in Spokane is unfortunate because the Braves were fully committed to competing in their 50th KIJHL season, but ultimately it was determined between the club and league to suspend operations.”

Despite the league moving forward with 17 teams, they are still excited to finally have a start date solidified for the season, following months of uncertainty.

“The current restrictions on sport have presented a number of difficult, but necessary hurdles as we all work towards being able to provide a safe and healthy environment for our players, staff, volunteers and fans,” said Dubois.

As per the current guidelines from the B.C. Government, no more than 50 people can be present in any given arena, which includes the players, coaches, and officials. As a result, the KIJHL will begin the season without any spectators or fans in the buildings.

“There have been, and continue to be, a number of circumstances that have put significant financial pressure on our clubs, but our goal throughout this process has been to do everything within our control to ensure that KIJHL hockey can return safely this fall,” added Dubois. “Keeping on that track has required a great deal of patience, flexibility and creativity from our member clubs. I’m very appreciative of all the work that’s been put in by so many around our league to get us to this point”

The KIJHL made it clear that the sport-specific protocols make this coming season different than any others in the past.

This season, there will not be the league’s traditional four divisions, but member clubs will instead play in “cohorts” made up of four teams maximum. The cohort groups will change in various stages throughout the season to rotate opponents, with the season-ending on February 26th. As for the Teck Cup, the KIJHL will announce the postseason format at a later date.

“With the format and structure of the 2020/21 regular season now confirmed, the league will now begin development of its schedule, which will be released on September 25th,” said the league.

Meanwhile, KIJHL teams will have the option to hold extended development camps in order to gear up for the season. Those camps are permitted to begin immediately under viaSport’s Phase 3 “Return to Play” guidelines and protocols.