By Carter Brooks
Photo courtesy of the NCN Flames
The Keystone Junior Hockey League will have a fifth team in the running for the 2019-20 Junior B hockey season.
On Wednesday it was announced that the NCN Flames of Manitoba's Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation in Nelson House would be joining the Keystone League for the upcoming year. Currently hosting the Cross Lake Islanders, the Norway House North Stars, the OCN Storm and the Peguis Juniors, the KJHL will be very welcoming to its newest team.
Situated within Nelson House, the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation is located approximately 45 minutes north of Thompson, serving as home to 3,800 people within the local community and off the reserve. The Flames will play out of the Gilbert McDonald Arena, where they last played in the Norwest Junior Hockey League.
The NCN Flames released the following statement in a press release upon announcement of the 2019-20 season plan:
"The people associated with the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation franchise will make every effort to ensure the success of this franchise both on and off the ice. The catalyst for this will be through the development of solid community support. We want to make our entire organization a true part of the community.
We will strive to make a long lasting relationship for years to come. We know that the City of Thompson and our outlying communities will embrace Junior Hockey. Partnering with these communities will enhance the overall impact this franchise will have on the North.
We will work with the existing hockey organizations to promote hockey development. We specifically want to work with the local Minor Hockey and AAA Midget executives to solidify their existing programs. We will also reach outside Thompson to our outlying communities and provide support where possible."
Now sitting at five teams, the KJHL has the potential to ice a sixth team should the Fisher River Hawks return to league play after taking a one-year hiatus following the 2017-18 season. The Hawks must inform the league's Board of Governors regarding their plans for the 2019-20 season by July 1.
The Cross Lake Islanders finished the 2018-19 season in first place with a 21-6-1 record, however, third-place Peguis collected its fourth-straight KJHL championship, beating the Islanders in seven games this past April.