Puck drop looming on SEMHL season
The puck will drop to launch the South East Manitoba Hockey League on Nov. 3, with one less team than last season.
The Stonewall Flyers will take a year off, leaving teams in Notre Dame, Portage, Carman, Warren, Morden, Altona and Winkler. The Flyers finished in last place last season with a 5-16 record.
“They’ve asked for a year’s leave of absence so they’re out for one year,” league commissioner Wayne Deschouwer said. “They can come back to our Spring meeting and reapply again.”
Having seven teams does make the schedule more unwieldy.
“We were pretty much ready to launch our schedule for 2017/18 season when we got the word they were unable to ice a team this year,” he said. “With eight teams we had a nice balanced schedule. Everybody played each other three times. Now some teams are playing each other three times, some are playing each other four times and some are even playing each other five times.”
The change will also affect the playoffs, with the first place team now getting a first round bye.
This is the 68th season for the SEMHL
“It’s the oldest senior league in the province by far,” Deschouwer said.
So why has the SEMHL succeeded while other leagues have failed?
“It’s the guys in their communities who donate their time and efforts,” he said. “They’re proud of their franchises and they work endlessly to make those things go.”
“We’ve been blessed in a lot of these towns,” he added.
Deschouwer said it’s often those who have benefited from local hockey systems that find themselves in a position to help keep senior hockey alive.
“They’ve taken some stuff from the game, they’ve enjoyed the game and now they’re putting it back,” he said. “Without those guys there’s no question the league would not be as successful.”
Deschouwer is also a fan who’s eager for the season to begin.
“I love summers, don’t get me wrong, but being Canadian, being Manitobans we all love the good old game of hockey and it’s time to get it going again,” he said.
Deschouwer said fans can expect another season of great parity. Last year only six points separated the top three teams of Notre Dame, Portage and Carman.
“Last year on any given night if you didn’t bring your A-Game you probably were going to leave the rink with a loss,” he said. “I think the competition this year is wide open.”
The very first game of the season will see the Warren Mercs host the Portage Islanders on Nov. 3.
Carman will start their season on the road in Notre Dame, Nov. 4 and will host their home opener Nov. 7 against Portage. Morden will host Altona Nov. 4 while Altona’s first home action will take place Nov. 11 as they host the Winkler Royals.