The Nelson Leafs will be riding the bus a lot more next season.
The KIJHL has approved the return of inter-conference games for the 2018-19 season, which means the Leafs will visit and host teams from the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference for the first time in two years.
The announcement was made at the Leafs’ annual general meeting Thursday. Head coach Mario DiBella said he’s looking forward to taking his team out of the Kootenays.
“I think it’s a great thing,” said DiBella. “I think if we’re going to play as a league then we have to act like one and not being able to see teams from the other division didn’t sit well with us and as an organization I think it’s a move in the positive and right direction.”
Nelson will also play 52 regular season games, five more than last season. Of those, they’ll face each Okanagan-Shuswap Conference team twice.
That will be a boon for the Leafs, who reached the conference final last season without ever seeing any team they might have played in the league championship.
“I think players certainly get tired of playing the same teams when they know there’s a larger league that they aren’t seeing,” said DiBella. “I think it also gives players exposure to other markets where they might be seen by Junior A scouts or coaches.”
During the meeting it was also announced DiBella, assistant coaches Adam DiBella and Isaac MacLeod, and general manager Lance Morey would return to the team while assistant coach Sean Dooley resigned.
Board directors Lauretta Wilson, Randy Craik and Gioconda Gordon did not seek re-election. New directors include Yvonne Vulcano, Bob Bourke and Stathis Dimopoulos, and Carmen Richichi was named the team’s volunteer of the year.
Nelson finished first in the Neil Murdoch Division last season and made it to the third round of the playoffs, but winning came at a financial cost.
The team posted a financial deficit of $92,959 in its treasurer’s report for the year ending April 30.
Some of the reasons offered for this by the team include:
• Travel expenses, which cost the Leafs $24,000 for the season and were compounded by the conference final trip to Kimberley, while equipment costs also rose $13,415.