A record high eight teams will compete as the Superior International Jr. Hockey League gets set to take to the ice for its 22nd season of competition.
Kenora Islanders are the SIJHL’s newest team. Kenora is the second expansion team in as many seasons for the SIJHL, which one year ago welcomed the Sioux Lookout Bombers into the fold.
As for the 2023-2024 regular season schedule, all eight teams will play 49 games — seven against each opponent. All eight teams will make the playoffs.
Besides Kenora and Sioux Lookout, the SIJHL’s other teams are the reigning champion Kam River Fighting Walleye, charter member Dryden Ice Dogs, as well as the Thunder Bay North Stars, Fort Frances Lakers, Red Lake Miners and Wisconsin Lumberjacks.
The regular season will begin on September 22.
Of note, the reigning champs from Kam River have a new head coach in 35-year old Jesse Messier, who takes the helm of the Fighting Walleye after four years in the Ontario Hockey League as an assistant coach with the Saginaw Spirit.
Of further note, Kam River will play host to the Hearst Lumberjacks of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League in a three-game exhibition series that is set for September 1-3 at Norwest Arena.
Also on the coaching front, Kurt Walsten, who is the dean of SIJHL bench bosses, is poised to be the lede Dog in Dryden for a 10th season.
The 55-year old Walsten coached Dryden to back to back SIJHL championships in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 and, along with long-time team president Mike Sveinson, represent the faces of the Ice Dogs franchise. In addition to being head coach, Walsten is also general manager of the Ice Dogs.