Swift Current’s Kyle McIntyre was announced as the new commissioner of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League on Monday.
McIntyre recently retired after a 30-year career in education, the past 20 in senior administration culminating as the Director of Education with the Chinook School Division.
McIntyre played four seasons in the SJHL in the mid-1980’s, two in Swift Current and two in Yorkton.
“Probably 35 years ago when I had my first suspension meeting with Wayne Kartush I thought to myself, ‘Boy if there ever became an opportunity to become the commissioner of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League I would jump at the opportunity,’” laughed McIntyre.
The SJHL currently features 11 teams from Saskatchewan as well as Manitoba’s Flin Flon Bombers, who are battling the Estevan Bruins in the championship series.
“I’ve always been passionate about the league. I have followed the league since I was a player. The opportunity presented itself and so I decided I would do a little bit of research and enter my name into the competition and do a little bit of homework. Fortunately for me they chose me to be the next commissioner.”
McIntyre was a long serving member of the Swift Current Broncos Board of Directors and the Saskatchewan High School Athletics Association and was heavily involved in minor hockey and baseball in Swift Current. He will take over from Bill Chow on June 1.
“Bill Chow has been the commissioner for 11 years and has done an excellent job with the league. So I think what I can bring to the league, obviously I want to honour many of the traditions that the league has, but I think I can also bring a new perspective. I think I can bring a perspective from a different lens, having been someone who played hockey and coached hockey, and is passionate about hockey, but has also been involved with large organizations at a strategic level. I think I can bring some of that skill and some of that perspective and maybe open the league to some new possibilities.”
McIntyre noted that the SJHL, like all sports leagues, has been challenged by the pandemic over the past two years.
“I think the league has been fairly fortunate this year to have a full season and have a very strong playoffs. In fact, probably the SJHL final series in one of the best series that they’ve had in 25-30 years. I think there’s a lot of real positive momentum around the league right now coming out of covid. Recognizing that a lot of people over the last two years have spent their time indoors and maybe entertainment dollars are a little more difficult to come by, I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for the league to capitalize on some of the momentum from the playoffs and the final series and maybe have the league explore some new possibilities.”
McIntyre said that part of his recruitment process was to do an analysis of the league.
“I would say that there are some challenges for the league for sure. You always worry about the solvency of every single franchise, especially coming out of covid. I think the league was fortunate that the government was able to offer a little bit of assistance to keep things afloat. A challenge always is maybe the age of the league. Probably for 35 years it has been a real old league. This year, because of the Centennial Cup, the league governors and coaches have decided to allow eight 20-year-olds. Well if the league is truly a developmental league for post-secondary school, whether it’s ACAC or CIS or NCAA, particularly NCAA, an older league really doesn’t attract the attention of a lot of college scouts. So I think it’s an opportunity for the governors, the coaches, and myself to determine what is the vision for the league and what kind of league do we want to be and what kind of opportunities do we want to offer players.”
McIntyre pointed out that Saskatchewan probably has the best U18 AAA league in the country.
“What I hate to see is our hockey players being exported like our grain is exported from the province. So I think my own particular focus is try and keep Saskatchewan kids in Saskatchewan communities. But we have to make it more attractive for them too right. We have to do our part by maybe making the league a little bit younger or maybe making it a little more college friendly or maybe helping the players transition to post-secondary opportunities. We have to provide a little bit of support and mentorship for the kids who want to do that.”
McIntyre will be shadowing Chow for the next month before taking over as commissioner.
“I’m pretty fortunate to have someone like Bill who has really been a steward for the league for the least 11 years. He’s available as a resource for me. We’re going to have a transitioning of a month and he and I have been speaking frequently and lots of emails.”
McIntyre will join Chow at the Centennial Cup in Estevan from May 19-29 and attend the Canadian Junior Hockey League meetings with him. “Following that event Bill will ride into the sunset until I pick up the Batphone and give him a call about a question I have.”
McIntyre said that the commissioner is expected to be in each SJHL rink at least twice a year. “For me to do the work that I think I need to do for the league I have to meet a lot of people and build a lot of relationships. That’s going to mean face-to-face. It’s going to mean being on the road, being in different communities, meeting with the coaches and with volunteer boards. That’s something in the first year I look to do. For the time being the league has been very good and they’re allowing me to work out of Swift Current, but I don’t anticipate during the season that I will be in Swift Current too much.”