THE EVOLUTION OF THE KIJHL
If you want to make something happen, you need a good group of people to commit. This is exactly what happened on a hot summer day in Castlegar in 1967, when a group of men met in a hot and steamy room. It was the start of the West Kootenay Junior Hockey League. Castlegar, Trail, Rossland, Grand Forks and Nelson were the first teams. The first season (1968-69) saw the Trail Jr. Smoke Eaters win the league, and advance to the BC Championship.
Castlegar and Grand Forks folded after one year. Grand Forks came back after a one-year absence, and Castlegar came back after seven years.
In 1972 Spokane entered the league, adding international tastes. At this point, the league became known as the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL). Creston joined in 1976, while the Columbia Valley Rockies came along in 1978, and Beaver Valley in 1981. The seventies were dominated by the Cranbrook Colts, with 2 straight BC Championships in their first four years. This was followed by a dynasty in Kimberley, when the Knights won 2 Cyclone Taylor Cups in the 80's. The late eighties were dominated by the Columbia Valley Rockies, who won back to back Keystone Cup Championships. (Western Canadian Junior B Champions).
When the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League (RMJHL) was formed in 1990, our league lost several teams (including Creston) to the Junior 'A' league. But in 1993 the North Okanagan Kings joined up, Sicamous joined in 1994, and we now have a well-rounded league with Revelstoke and Golden providing great rivalries.
In 1996 the 2 distinct divisions were named after two great founders. The south division was named after Neil Murdoch, the personification of the name Smoke Eater, while the north division was named after Eddie Mountain, the personification of a Humanitarian.
In 1996 Junior B hockey came to Osoyoos. 1996 saw them as the Osoyoos Jr. B. Rebels, then 1997 as the Osoyoos Heat under new ownership.
1998 brought the Castlegar Rebels back into the fold.
1999 brought the Nelson Leafs back home to the KIJHL. Also in 1999 the Summerland Minor Hockey had a Juvenile team playing under the name of the Summerland Warriors. This was an interim measure to replace the Rossland Warriors, who dropped out just before the season started
The 2000/2001 season saw the return of hockey to Creston, under the name of the Creston Valley Thunder Cats.
The 2001/2002 season has added two more members to the KIJHL. The return of the Kimberley Dynamiters and a new team Summerland (the Summerland Sting). The North Okanagan Kings became the Enderby Ice Kings and the Osoyoos Heat became the Osoyoos Storm. Also with the increase in teams, the league has split into three divisions.
In 2002/2003 the North Okanagan Kings re-located to Princeton, where they now call themselves the POSSE.
The 2004/05 season had the Fernie Ghostriders return to the league after playing in the KIJHL from 1973-1980 and then moving on to Junior "A". Fernie became the fifth team in the Eddie Mountain Division.
The Golden team changes it's name from the Rockets to the Xtreme for the 2005/06 season.
The 2006/07 season saw the league accept a franchise move from Osoyoos to Kamloops. The Kamloops Storm remain in the Okanagan/Shuswap Division. The Golden team changes name to Golden Jets after the purchase of the franchise by a group headed by Bobby Hull.
The Chase Chiefs were welcomed into the league for the 2007/08 season. They join the other five teams in the Okanagan/Shuswap Division. The Golden Jets franchise reverts back to a community-owned society who change the team moniker back to Rockets.
The 2008/09 season saw no new teams but the league did re-align into 2 conferences. The Okanagan Conference remains a six-team entity while the Kootenay Conference contains all ten of the other teams split into the Neil Murdoch and Eddie Mountain Divisions.
The 2009/10 season has the Okanagan Conference expanding to seven teams with the addition of the North Okanagan Knights, operating out of Armstrong, BC. The Summerland Sting also re-located to Penticton, BC.
Osoyoos was welcomed back into the league in 2010/11 when the Coyotes joined the Okanagan Conference. These upstart Coyotes went on to become league champions and represent the KIJHL at the Cyclone Taylor Cup. The Chiefs re-located from Chase to Kelowna that year as well.
The KIJHL expanded to twenty teams for the 2011/12 season. The Summerland Steam and Chase Heat re-joined the League as the fifth team in each of the Okanagan Divisions
In 2013, the Penticton Laker franchise was moved to 100 Mile House. The Wranglers begin play in the Doug Birks Division for the 2013-14 season while the North Okanagan Knights moved into the Okanagan Division.
Eddie Mountain Division:
Columbia Valley Rockies
Creston Valley Thundercats
Neil Murdoch Division:
Beaver Valley Nitehawks
Grand Forks Border Bruins
Doug Birks Division
100 Mile House Wranglers
North Okanagan Knights
By Tom Stanton, Rossland Warriors, 1971-75.
The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) has been operating for more than 50 years and continues to grow in strength each season.
The history of the league (beginning with the formation of the West Kootenay Junior Hockey League in the late ‘60s) is a colourful, exciting account of the impressive, and continual development of hockey talents onto higher levels of competition. The listing of former KIJHL players and officials advancing to junior A, major junior, collegiate, semi-pro and the NHL is outstanding.
One of the earliest achievements came just a few short seasons after its inception. It was the 1970-71 season, and the league had teams from Trail, Rossland, Grand Forks and Nelson. At the time, the Canada Winter Games were also in its infancy, and the second Winter Games were slated in February 1971 in Saskatoon. (Yes, they had to build a ski hill, Blackstrap).
It was decided that the hockey tournament for the Games would involve competition at the junior B level. This meant that every province would send a representative club to compete. In B.C., following some hard work by WKJHL president Burt Decaire and his board, the playdowns for the provincial rep would take place in Trail and Rossland, featuring teams from the Lower Mainland, the North Region, the East Kootenay and West Kootenay.
The tourney opened Dec. 26, 1970 with the West Kootenay doubling the North 12-6. The next day, the West rolled by the East Kootenay, 7-1, and closed out the round-robin Dec. 29th by downing the Lower Mainland 5-3.
After preliminary play, the title was to be decided with a best-of-three playdown between the host West Kootenay and Lower Mainland.
After an opening 5-4 victory in Rossland Dec.30th before a packed house, the scene shifted to Trail’s Cominco Arena on New Year’s Day, 1971, where before thousands of fans, the local stars pulled out a 3-2 overtime win to capture the championship.
The victory put the WKJHL/KIJHL into the 1971 Canada Winter Games in Saskatoon, where they eventually struck for a bronze medal. Members of the West Kootenay AllStars included:
1. Sandy Santori (Trail) 2. Steven Sander (Trail) 3. Brian Kuffner (Trail) 4. Bob Hook (Rossland) 5. Martin Sander (Trail) 6. Norman Larmour (Trail) 7. Terry McDougall (Trail) 8. David Palmer (Trail) 9. John Stanton (Rossland) 10. Jim Stuart (Rossland) 11. Rick Rosse (Rossland) 12. David Nicol (Trail) 13. Billy Vulcano (Trail) 14. Gene Legare (Rossland) 15. Ross Eccles (Rossland) 16. Len Ircandia (Trail) 17. Walt Sofonoff (Grand Forks) 18. Alec Kootnikoff (Grand Forks) 19. Tom Castle (Rossland) 20. Glenn Caputo (Trail) Coach: Roy Casler Manager: Andy Kuffner
Just one of the opening chapters, of a very impressive KIJHL history book. With more chapters to be written.