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High school hockey to return next month


It was a long process to make it a reality, but high school hockey will return this season.
Jason Alf, co-president of the Westman High School Hockey League and manager of the Dauphin Clippers hockey team, announced last week, the league will hit the ice with eight teams playing a 24-game schedule.
A league meeting was held a couple of weeks ago, with 11 teams committing to the season. But the next day, Beautiful Plains School Division decided not to allow its schools to participate, so Neepawa and Carberry were lost. Swan Valley later dropped out, as well.
Alf officially received approval last Thursday to go ahead with a season.
Virden was not going to take part because of a lack of players, Alf said, but the rest of the teams were not allowed to play based on decisions from their local school division.
“Our eight teams got support from their divisions to go forward,” he said, adding they also received approval from the Manitoba High School Athletic Association and Hockey Manitoba.
“As long as we’re following all the rules that we’re supposed to. And we will be,” Alf said.
A scheduling meeting is set for Oct. 14. Once the schedule is put together, it will be sent to the eight teams for any adjustments to be made. The plan is to start the season in early November.
The Clippers are in a division with McCreary, Vincent Massey and Crocus Plains. Alf noted the league would not necessarily strictly play on weekends.
“It’s not hard to do a game on a week night. We’ll go with whatever kind of ice time we can get. It’s going to be slim pickings in a lot of cases. But there’s no tournaments allowed, so we’ve got three or four weekends that we’d normally be away for tournaments that we can use,” he said.
And because there are no provincial championships, the season can be extended into March if needed.
“Teams aren’t going to be doing overnights or anything like that. So it will be a little easier to spread out,” Alf said.
Teams will play a double home-and-home against teams in their own division in the first half of the season to account for 12 games. In the second half, teams will play three games against opposition from the other division.
Alf said it is a bit of a relief to get the league going, because there have been a lot of questions from a lot of people wondering what was happening and players wondering where they would be playing.
As for the Clippers, Alf noted a lot of the players have been skating since August, so they are pretty much ready to roll straight into practices, which will begin this week.
The Clippers reached the final last season, but the series with the Killarney Raiders was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With Rick Freese moving on to co-coach the Parkland Rangers, Alf will be joined on the bench once again by Curtis Yaschyshyn, Josh Yaschyshyn and Rob Dreger. There is a possibility of another coach joining the team, as well.
“I expect a fairly smooth transition. Obviously, Rick was a huge part of everything last year and really did something special with that group of guys. Hopefully, we’ve all learned something from Rick’s teaching and the way he goes. We’d like to continue that same type of system,” Alf said.
High school hockey will be a rare commodity this winter. Alf believes there are only 12 teams in Winnipeg playing this year, bringing the total number of teams in the entire province to 20.
“Quite a bit less than what we’re used to,” he said.

Doug Zywina