The Superior International Junior Hockey League may have just cut off its nose to spite its face by removing the Duluth Clydesdales from the league.
Earlier this season the SIJHL lost the Sioux Lookout Flyers franchise. After only a few games the Flyers were forced to close up shop due to a lack of rostered players. Sioux Lookout has not made its intentions known as to whether or not they will attempt to return to the SIJHL for the 2013-2014 season or not.
With the loss of the Duluth Clydesdales the SIJHL is now down to five teams as it looks to finish the 2012-2013 season. Not a big problem for the league today, hectic rescheduling aside. But down the road this could present serious problems.
The SIJHL has two other teams based in the United States. The Minnesotta Wilderness and the Minnesotta Iron Rangers. These two teams require dual sanctioning by USA Hockey and Hockey Canada in order to compete in the Tier II league.
Under USA Hockey rules, all Tier II leagues need to have a minimum of 8 teams. Because the SIJHL is a Canadian based league teams in the US have been able to get around this issue. Those US based teams are actually registered as Tier III independent teams for USA Hockey purposes. Under USA Hockey rules any Tier III league needs to have a minimum of 6 teams.
Keeping in mind that the SIJHL is still a Canadian based league, USA Hockey would be well within its rights and within the rules to make a determination that the SIJHL no longer meets their requirements to allow for team sanctioning.
Earlier this year TJHN offered an idea that the SIJHL merge with the NOJHL in order to give the teams a larger league in which to play in. At this time, it may be the only thing that can save the SIJHL.
Expansion for 2013-2014 is off the table for the SIJHL as Hockey Canada expansion deadlines and USA Hockey expansion deadlines have already passed. Unless Sioux Lookout miraculously comes back next season the SIJHL may have just removed themselves from the junior hockey world.