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The MJHL is the oldest junior hockey league in the country. It falls under the western zone of the CJHL. Players in this league range from ages 16 -20, but most often they are at least 18 years old. The league also allows a whopping nine 20 year-olds to dress each night. It aims to move players through hockey while keeping their education options open, including sending players to Major Junior.
Your best bet as a hopeful Manitoba Junior Hockey League player is to make a AAA midget team when you’re of that age. You’re guaranteed to be seen by scouts of all levels, including the MJHL.
Like other leagues, the MJHL holds a bantam draft to fill their protected lists. First, each team gets to select two players from within their designated geographical region. This practice enables teams to groom local players on their rosters in the future.
After those selections, an entry-draft commences like any other draft. It’s a six-round draft, stocking team’s protected lists with players for the future. The draft happens in June, and it is a pretty low-key affair.
Players chosen in the draft are contacted by their new parent team. Each team is allowed 50 players on their protected list, including prospective players and active players. However, players do not count against a team’s 50 player list until their 16th birthday. At that time, room must be made for them on the list.
Like in any Junior A league, players from out of province who wish to play in the MJHL must be 18 years of age or be traded from their current Junior A team. Players wishing to try out in two different leagues at 18 may do so.
Spring camps are usually held in late-May of each year. These are usually by invite for prospects scouted throughout the year. A good camp earns you an invite back in the fall. Top incoming players may be guaranteed a roster spot in this camp. (I go into how this works and how you could be this player in my book, The Junior Hockey Truth.)
The MJHL unofficial opening time for training camp is in late-August. After the pre-season, the regular season begins before there is a showcase tournament. Like other Junior A leagues, the showcase is a gathering event for the entire league to play in front of scouts from all levels. It also is a chance for coaches and management to check out other rosters and overall talent coming in to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
Playing MJHL hockey
The MJHL has a similar grinding style with a sprinkle of finesse similar to the SJ. (Though the league is trying more and more not to be seen as a place for older players and rough hockey.) Although midget players do make the jump into the league, Manitoba has a solid midget AAA league where players can develop while living at home.
Half of the MJHL hockey teams are located near Winnipeg, but the other half are scattered throughout the southern half of the province. (There is one team, the Pas, situated further north.) Overall, the MJHL unofficial travel distances between teams are sizable on certain trips but quite short on others. This is to be expected in any league in the West.
Every fall there is a showcase tournament as part of the regular season schedule. Teams meet up and simply play games all under the same roof. Scouts flock to these events in every Junior A league and it’s a good opportunity for them to see all of the new players in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
After a 60-game regular season, the top four teams in each division begin playoffs in March. After three, seven-game rounds the winner most on to the Western Championships. This is a round-robin format where the winner heads the the national championship, the Royal Bank Cup.
Roster cutoff dates are Dec. 1 and the Jan. 10 trade deadline at 25 and 23 players respectively. These dates are when rosters shake down and trades are often made.
Sher-Wood is the equipment sponsorship for the league.
The MJHL consistently turns out players to the NCAA, with the best teams gathering a handful of scholarships. However, most of these scholarships are for division III schools, CIS or the Alberta college league (ACAC). This league is the most competitive Canadian league in proximity to Minnesota, which is where many division III schools are situated.
Nevertheless, Central Scouting does drop in to see players and one or two get drafted every couple of years. Top Manitoba Junior Hockey League players could compete in Major Junior and many have been taking in the WHL draft. Generally speaking, the talent level is a notch lower than major junior. The best Manitoba-born players receive offers to head toward the West Coast, so although there is a lot of talent within the province, it doesn’t always stay there. That being said, many MJHL players who have played Major Junior elsewhere return for their 20 year-old year, some going to the University of Manitoba.
Showcase Tournament: Yes
Regular Season Games: 60
Watching Games Live
The leagues broadcasts every MJHL hockey game live on its website for a fee. This is becoming more common across leagues since games need to be taped anyway. (Games are taped in case of incidents that require disciplinary action, and for teams and their coaches to break down video of prior games.)
Notable Alumni of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League include: Bobby Clarke, Andy Bathgate, Ed Belfour, Butch Goring, Jordan Tootoo, Terry Sawchuk, Travis Zajac
You May Also Like: Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League
May 21, 2013
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