“Hockey media and fans alike seem to enjoy nothing more than ‘a Cinderella story’ come playoff time.” The Hockey Research Journal, SIHR.
We are attracted to the underdog hoping to say that “I was there when an unexpected event occurred.” So for local Junior B hockey fans, the question heading into the second round of the playoffs is: does this event occur in the KIJHL? What is the true indicator of the best team, regular season or playoffs?
The data covering 44 years (1967-68 to 2010-11) of the league doesn’t support the Cinderella desire of fans in the KIJHL as there is a strong correlation between regular season standings and playoff results leading to the league championship.
With only two exceptions — Castlegar (4th place in 1977-78) and Fernie (5th place in 2007-08) — the KIJHL league playoff champion finished the regular season within the top three teams in the standings. More notable, an impressive 89 per cent of playoff champions finished in first or second place in the regular season standings. First place finishers won the Playoffs 59 per cent of the time, while second place finishers won 30 per cent of KIJHL playoff series.
Who then are the giants of the KIJHL? Cranbrook garnered 10 league championships on their way to win more provincial Cyclone Taylor Trophies (seven) than any other team in BC. Trail follows with seven league championships, Beaver Valley and Nelson with five each.
So what of 2011-12? Will one of the 89 per cent of league champions, such as Beaver Valley or Castlegar who finished first and second in regular season standings, hold true to form and capture the KIJHL title? History is on their side. Or will it be a Cinderella year with Kelowna (11th in regular season) or Sicamous (13th in regular season) both who upset the number-one seed in the first round of their respective divisions?
All as hockey fans can do is watch to see what unfolds over the next few weeks.
Bill McDonnell is a local hockey historian.