The Oxbow Huskies will be taking a leave of absence from the Big 6 Hockey League for the 2019-20 season.
The announcement was made at the Big 6’s annual organizational meeting on Sunday afternoon. The Huskies have been part of the league since the 2004-05 season, and have had some strong seasons, but struggled to have enough players last season.
President Rae Wright said their decision was a surprise, but a few of Oxbow’s better players weren’t expected back for this season. He hopes the team will return for the 2020-21 campaign.
“It’s always harder to start up again than it is to keep a team going, so I wouldn’t be surprised either way,” said Wright.
The move leaves the league with nine teams for this season: the Arcola-Kisbey Combines, Bienfait Coalers, Carlyle Cougars, Carnduff Red Devils, Kipling-Windthorst Oil Kings, Midale Mustangs, Redvers Rockets, Wawota Flyers and Yellow Grass Wheat Kings.
The league has also implemented a new elite player rule that is expected to create more parity.
Each team will be allowed to carry three players who played at least 30 games of junior A level hockey or better. An exemption will be granted for this season for three more players who were part of last year’s team.
There is also an exemption granted for any players who are playing for the team based where they grew up.
“It’s to try to equalize the elite players, so that they can’t all go to one team, or to two teams. If there are that many elite players, they have to disburse more throughout the league.”
Wright said he has received a lot of complaints since Yellow Grass entered the league in 2016-17, because the town is close to Weyburn. He believes Yellow Grass had 10 players who would have been classified as elite imports last season, when the franchise won the Big 6 title.
No other team was close, other than Redvers, but Wright was quick to point out that the Rockets had a lot of homegrown players on their team.
A special meeting was held in July to discuss the elite player issue.
Wright noted that the other senior hockey leagues in the province have some sort of an elite player rule.
The Big Six season will begin on Nov. 2 and continue until early February. Each team will play 18 games, the same as last year. Teams will play each other twice, and then they will play two teams three times.