When the SJHL wraps up a game seven series between the Estevan Bruins and Flin Flon Bombers for the Canalta Cup on Friday, it will be the final game played under commissioner Bill Chow.
Chow announced in January that he would step down after the Centennial Cup tournament. He said it hasn’t quite sunk in yet that his days involved with the SJHL are nearly at a conclusion.
“The season is going to end on Friday, but we still have the Centennial Cup coming up,” Chow said. “I’ve just been focusing on everything that has been going on lately and trying to wrap that up. Maybe as we get closer to the end of the Centennial Cup, it might sink in that okay, I’m done. I think right now everything is in a good spot, and I’m looking forward to turning the keys over to the kingdom.”
Chow will turn those keys over to Kyle McIntyre, who was announced as Chow’s successor earlier this week. Chow says he is glad the league was able to find a new commissioner before he left, so that he can give some advice before his term comes to an end.
“When I let the board know that I was stepping down back in January, I wanted to give them time to look for someone to be named in a timely fashion, hopefully in May,” Chow explained. “They did that, and now it provides us some time to work together and have a period of transition so that way everything isn’t foreign to Kyle. We’re going to be working together over the next month or so, hoping that he can get a good start to running the SJHL himself.”
It’s the first time since 2011 that the SJHL will see a new commissioner. Chow filled that role for 11 years, but with the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in 2018 combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, he says everything culminated to a point where he decided to step down, despite signing a two-year contract extension in June 2021.
“I think there are a number of things that have taken place, and they do vary from the Humboldt crash to the pandemic over these pasts two years. A lot of energy was put into those events in trying to make things work. Right now it just seems like the right time for me to leave. I’m comfortable with that decision, and obviously I didn’t come to that decision overnight; there was a long process for me to go through.”
Chow says he isn’t sure whether he will stay involved with hockey in the future or not. He spent 25 years as a WHL scout, while working with the Prince Albert Police Service at the same time. He also spent time as a scout for the SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs, so if he does choose to return to the sport, his resume speaks volumes.
“That one is up for debate,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, all I know is I’m going to do something. When it comes to hockey, those opportunities are sometimes few and far between. I’m just going to get to May 31 and see what happens. I’ll see what happens next fall as well, and if something comes along, something comes along. If it doesn’t, so be it.”
In his time as commissioner, Chow quickly realized how special the SJHL is. With 11 out of 12 teams being community owned, he adopted a new appreciation for how communities in Saskatchewan love their hockey. It’s something he says he will always be grateful for.
“There are places outside of our province that have community owned teams, but there is no league that sits alone as being totally community owned and volunteer based like ours. The one thing about our teams and our communities is the amount of pride that they have. Everybody has their own sense of pride, and for me, being in different communities across Western Canada, it just seems like there’s a connection between that community and the fans and the players that you don’t see in other places. “
Of course, when you leave something behind, memories you’ve long forgotten about can start to rush in. It’s no different for Chow, who, when asked about his favorite memory in the SJHL, rewound all the way back to the 2013-14 season, when the Yorkton Terriers captured the RBC Cup in Vernon, B.C.
“Yorkton was the representative from Saskatchewan and Manitoba, so we were in Vernon for that. But I had committed myself to doing the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Notre Dame. Unbeknownst to me, when I made those plans, they conflicted, so I flew back home to take care of the Hall of Fame induction. Yorkton hadn’t been doing so well in that tournament, but they did make it into the playoffs. I thought I was just going to stay home, because it didn’t really look like Yorkton was going to have a chance to win
“Lo and behold, they would get into the final. So now I had to turn around and fly back out to Vernon. I got in really late at night. I slept the next day and got to the game that night. That final went into overtime and Yorkton won. That part was really funny the way that it occurred.”
Chow also took the chance to thank everyone involved with making his job run as smooth as possible, through good times and bad.
“I’d really like to thank all the boards, the volunteer boards, and the people who sit on those boards. Of course the volunteers in general who are so committed to those teams, for all the work they have done over these lasts 11 years. I wish everybody all the best, and I hope it’s more successful than when I was here.”
As mentioned earlier, Kyle McIntyre will be the SJHL’s new commissioner. In a statement to the SJHL, McIntyre said he’s excited to get started on his new path.
“I look forward to collaborating with our twelve teams and their many volunteers, coaches, and players to make the SJHL Canada’s premier junior hockey league,” his statement reads. “Saskatchewan has a very strong minor hockey community and our U18AAA league is among the best in Canada. The continued growth and development of Saskatchewan players will be paramount.”