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).
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
Doug Birks Division
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.