Playoff Revamp Spells End To Manitoba Sask Rivalry

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Bidding adieu to ANAVET Playoff revamp spells end to Manitoba-Sask. rivalry

The Manitoba or Saskatchewan team that wins the ANAVET Cup interprovincial junior A hockey championship this spring might want to hold it up just a little bit higher.

It will be the last time the ANAVET Cup is awarded to decide the Manitoba-Saskatchewan representative for the RBC Cup national championship. The same goes for the Doyle Cup, which decides the B.C.-Alberta representative.

The Canadian Junior Hockey League, which oversees 10 junior A hockey leagues across Canada, has announced it will move to a five-team tournament called the Western Canadian Championship beginning next season.

CJHL president Kirk Lamb, a former junior A player who is now a Calgary lawyer, said the new format is a chance for the players to compete in a unique atmosphere.

"We thought it was a great opportunity for the players to put them in a different type of tournament in dedicated 10-day tournament that was a lot like the RBC," said Lamb, a former Alberta Junior Hockey League player who went on to be captain of his team at Princeton University. "For the scouting community, they can come in and access five different teams in one location."

There will still be two teams from the four western provinces at the RBC Cup.

"The unfortunate part is it seems like they’re getting rid of the Manitoba-Saskatchewan rivalry and with the ANAVET and what it represents, that part of history, it’s always unfortunate when that changes or evolves to something else," said Blake Spiller, coach of the defending Manitoba Junior Hockey League champion Portage Terriers, who won the ANAVET Cup in 2011.

Spiller said the Western tournament will mean less travel for the MJHL champion.

"If you play seven in the ANAVET, you’re travelling back and forth (to and from Saskatchewan). In the Western, you’ll be in one place so there’s just the initial travel," Spiller said.

MJHL commissioner Kim Davis said the tournament will give Manitoba communities a chance to host an elite event every four years.

"This will bring an exciting focus and awareness to the MJHL and the entire province, which will go a long way toward enhancing the image of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and its member clubs," said Davis.

2013 Western Canadian Championship

April 26-May 5, 2013 in Nanaimo, B.C.

Will include the champions of the junior A hockey leagues in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C., plus the host team;

A 13-game tournament with a round-robin, two semifinals and a championship game;

Champion and runner-up teams will earn berths in the RBC Cup national junior A hockey championship;

Manitoba Junior Hockey League will host the tournament in 2014, Alberta in 2015 and Saskatchewan in 2016.

Ashley Prest

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