COLUMN: End of Western Canada Cup good thing for Saskatchewan

By Nathan Kanter
May 18, 2017 - 5:00pm

The news is out there even if it hasn't been officially confirmed quite yet: the Western Canada Cup will not return next year.

Nor the year after that.

It's done after just five years, according to Penticton Western News, who wrote last week that due to financial reasons the five-team tournament consisting of a host and the four western junior A league champions will cease to exist.

None of the Junior A leagues will speak on the matter officially until after the Canadian Junior Hockey League AGM at the end of May, but it's pretty much known that starting in the 2017-18 season, Western Canada will go back to the two regional cups that were in place from 1971 until 2012: the Anavet Cup and the Doyle Cup.

The Anavet Cup is a seven-game series played between the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champion and the Manitoba Junior Hockey League Champion, while the Doyle Cup is a seven-game series played between the Alberta Junior Hockey League champion and the British Columbia Hockey League champion.

From an SJHL perspective, I think the return of the Anavet Cup is a good thing.

Firstly, from a pure mathematical perspective, the chances of the SJHL champion advancing to the RBC Cup have just increased from 40 per cent to 50. Under the Western Canada Cup format, two of five teams advanced. Now, the SJHL champion has a 50/50 chance.

Secondly, I would argue the BCHL and AJHL are tougher leagues to make it out of, as opposed to Manitoba. Some would disagree and point to two of the past three RBC Cup champions as coming from Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the form of Portage (2015) and Yorkton (2014).

But this isn't about winning the RBC; this is about the tournament that gets you there. Of the 10 RBC berths that have been handed out during the five-year run of the WCC, seven have gone to B.C. or Alberta. Just one has gone to Saskatchewan.

Which teams did the North Stars have the most trouble with at this year's WCC? Brooks and Penticton. Which teams are faring the best at the RBC cup this year? Brooks and Penticton.

The league that produces the strongest champion on the most consistent basis is the BCHL. They've produced four of the last eight RBC cup champions. Avoiding a direct matchup with the BCHL champion is a plus for Saskatchewan.

Another reason this is a positive is from a purely entertainment perspective: tournaments suck. 

There, I said it.

Round robins aren't nearly as fun as a seven-game playoff series. The NHL playoffs are the best playoffs of any sport because of the grind it takes to get 16 wins. And nothing is better in sports than a game seven.

By bringing back a seven-game series for the Anavet or Doyle Cup, you reignite what hockey playoffs are all about.

The final reason this is a plus, and the reason the decision has been made, is cost.

The costs are down for those competing.

It's no secret that many Junior A teams struggle financially. And it's no secret that it's cheaper to only have to pay for a bus and maybe a couple nights hotel for a seven-game series as opposed to an entire nine or 10 days of hotel and food costs at a tournament like the WCC. Plus, it's guaranteed ticket and concession money for at least two home games for each team competing. 

I have a feeling lots of North Battleford fans would have loved to see another home game at the Civic Centre for the North Stars this season, considering how few there were.

Are there negatives to seeing the Anavet Cup return?

It might be a bigger drain on the teams to have them play a seven-game series as opposed to a tournament, resulting in a more banged up team arriving at the RBC Cup.

But it also might not.

The North Stars played five games at this year's WCC in eight days. Penticton and Chilliwack played six in nine days.

What would an Anavet Cup look like?

Well, all of the North Stars' SJHL series were scheduled for seven games in 11 days, so that's pretty much on par with what an Anavet Cup would look like.

Plus, the North Stars only had to go through three rounds of playoffs to win the league. Fatigue can't be an excuse.

There simply aren't any negatives I can find for returning to the old format, which has me even more excited for next year.


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