The 2017-2018 Northern Alberta Junior B Hockey League season is officially underway. The season started on September 29 with a slate of games through opening weekend. One bright spot for the league was the new team getting to show off their rink, and introduce themselves to their fans. Lac La Biche went 2-0-0 on the weekend with some star performances.
Variety in exhibition
Not too long ago, exhibition play was predictable in the NEAJBHL. Most teams had their pre-season set with other teams around the league. Changes have been slowly made by NEAJBHL member teams to how they approach the regular season tune-ups. This season teams were more active than usual. This exhibition schedule may have set a record for kilometers traveled by league teams.
Of note, the Wainwright Bisons visited Red Deer to play the Vipers. The St. Paul Canadiens made a trip to Fort St. John, and the Killam Wheat Kings traveled to Wetaskiwin.
“It’s good to see. I know Vermilion went up to [Fort St. John] last year. It’s good to see teams are traveling elsewhere.” NEAJBHL President Mark Hines says, “It is good to see because when I coached you played the same team during pre-season then you play them another four times during the season. You might play them in the playoffs. There was a lot of bad blood by then.”
New rule – No Change Icing
A new rule change has already had a major impact on the league. It was very noticeable in the pre-season as coaches adjusted. Some teams within the Junior B ranks of had adopted the rule in years past. Yes, we’re talking about the no change icing. The rule is pretty self explanatory. Should a team ice the puck from anywhere on their half of center, the face-off comes back in that teams zone, and the team is not allowed to change. Previously, the team would have been allowed to change on that scenario.
“It’s pretty much the same as the NHL. You ice the puck, doesn’t matter if you’re in your zone, or a foot from the red line. It’s icing, and you don’t get to change.” President Hines explains.
Things going smooth
When you’re in your first year as President of any hockey league, you would hope for things to go smooth. According to Hines, it’s so far so good. To add to that, it’s looking to be a good year of hockey in the NEAJBHL.
“Things are going pretty smooth so far. Some teams are a little bit of an eye opener, but mind you the season. Some teams that thought they weren’t going to have much, they’re sitting one two in the league right now. Not saying they’ll stay there for the season, but we’ll see when comes the mid point. I think for most part teams are trying to figure guys out, and get those final cuts made.” Mark Hines says.
40 games in same time frame
This year, with the addition of Lac La Biche, NEAJBHL teams will play forty games each. This will be done in the same time frame as the 36 game schedule last year. The season finishes on February 11, with two games on the schedule. Playoffs will begin shortly after, once rink schedules are booked.