KIJHL loses its only international team . . . Spokane out because not enough vaccinated staff, players . . . League drops vaccine mandate

As expected, the junior B Spokane Braves won’t be participating in the 2022-23 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season. The Braves don’t have kijhlenough staff members and players fully vaccinated, so have had to give up any hope of playing, meaning the KIJHL is really the KJHL.

The league, which now features 19 B.C. teams, made the announcement on Wednesday.

The KIJHL had a vaccine mandate in place for the 2021-22 season, but Jeff Dubois, the league’s commissioner, told Taking Note on Wednesday that “our Vaccination Policy was a measure that was taken for the 2021-22 season only. We aren’t planning to renew it for 2022-23 at this time.” . . . Still, Canada and the United States both have border restrictions in place — foreigners crossing into Canada must be fully vaccinated, and the same holds true for foreigners going the other way. Any Braves staffers and players who aren’t vaccinated wouldn’t have been able to come north; any unvaccinated staff members or players on Canadian teams wouldn’t have been able to travel to Spokane.

The KIJHL released its 2022-23 regular-season schedule on July 18 and it included Spokane. At the same time, the league had given Spokane an Aug. 1 deadline by which time it had to declare its intentions. Well, the league revealed those intentions on Wednesday. The Braves, who last played in February 2020, won’t be playing their 50th anniversary season this winter.

“The Braves’ primary challenge has been recruiting players at a time when athletes and team staff must be fully vaccinated in order to enter into Canada,” Dubois said in a news release. “Despite their best efforts, the Braves look unlikely to be able to fill a roster of players who meet that requirement, and we reached a point where a decision needed to be made as to whether our season would proceed with or without Spokane. To be clear, we fully support those measures that have been taken to keep our communities safe from COVID, and we look forward to the Spokane Braves rejoining the KIJHL as soon as they are able to do so.”

As of mid-July, neither Spokane owner Bob Tobiason nor head coach Darin Schumacher was vaccinated. At that time, Taking Note was told that the Braves had only a handful of vaccinated players.

After the announcement, the Braves tweeted: “We draw players from Spokane and North Idaho. Spokane County is sitting around 65 per cent fully vaxxed. Kootenai County is 51 per cent . . . Those numbers are much lower when you drill down to junior-eligible ages.”

The KIJHL news release, which includes several schedule adjustments, is right here.

JUNIOR JOTTINGS: The Saskatoon Blades have released F Josh Paulhus, 20. In 74 games with the Blades, the Saskatoon native had three goals and three assists in 57 games last season. The move leaves Saskatoon with three 2002-born players — F Kyle Crnkovic, F Josh Pillar and D Aidan De La Gorgendiere. . . . The Blades have added Spencer Stehouwer to their staff as equipment manager. He spent the past four seasons in that role with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting. Stehouwer takes over from Riley Kosmolak, who has moved on to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose after three seasons with the Blades.


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