Ottawa Gee-Gees coach Dave Leger was kind enough to explain the tweaks to the OUA men's hockey league, both the schedule and playoff format.
The OUA has expanded the playoffs and eliminated the first-round playoff bye in the wake of a post-season where none of four playoff seeds made it to the Queen's Cup, the conference championship series. (Trois-Rivières was the only one to win a playoff round, and it needed two overtimes in the decider vs. Fred Parker's Carleton Ravens.) The trade-off is 16 of 19 teams will make the playoffs — 8-of-10 in the East, which adds the expansion Nipissing Lakers, 8-of-9 in the West.
It seems much tidier just to revise the post from earlier.
- The playoffs will be a true 1-through-8, meaning an end to barely .500 teams earning the No. 2 seed and getting a first-round bye. Last season's No. 2 seeds, Toronto in the East and York in the West, had the fourth- and fifth-best records in their conferences.
"The main feature is having two more playoff teams on each side," Leger said. "We'll still have the four divisions, but the only purpose for those delineations is to help sort out the cross-over scheduling."
- There is more of an emphasis on conference play. Cross-over scheduling will be set up to "achieve balance over a period of time." It will take 3-4 years for everyone to play everyone, but the intention is to address concerns that certain teams played the Lakeheads of the world more often than some of their rivals.
"There was a real appetite from the coaches to have a cross-over," Leger says. "There was talk about having all East teams play all West teams, but some of the coaches and athletic directors weren't too happy. However, there was a lot of interest to have a cross-over, and thankfully we're going to have one.
"Having a strong team like a Waterloo or a Western is good for our team and good for our school."
- It seems like cross-over play, based on two teams' schedules which were posted online, will all take place before Jan. 1. That means teams will be going head-to-head during the closing sprint that begins on the first weekend of January, which is a positive development.
Last season, Ottawa was dealing with an injury bug when it went just 1-2-1 during a four-game swing vs. Mid West teams, which made it harder for hold off Queen's for the final playoff spot.
- The schedule is sticking at 28 games. Lakehead and Queen's each posted schedules that had 30 conference games, but the schedule increase didn't get approval.
Meantime, Leger did pass along some recruiting news with a Kingston angle. Stay-at-home defenceman Tyler Hill, who captained the Kingston Kimco Voyageurs team which won the Central Canadian title, is joining the Gee-Gees.
(Thanks to Todd Mathers for the tip. Cross-posted to cisblog.ca.)
- It's a few days old, but Queen's linebacker Thaine Carter is vowing to play like an angry young man at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp after going in the last round of the draft.
- Point guard Courtnay Pilypaitis, the Ottawa native who led the U of Vermont to the NCAA Tournament, has been named to Canada's women's basketball team for the 2009 World University Games, which begin July 1 in Belgrade, Serbia.
This probably has to be folded into that omnibus post about how badly Canada Basketball is being hosed (by the media, corporate Canada, the federal ministry of sport assuming Canada still has one, and so on), but Canada is travelling with only 10 players. That is like sending a hockey team to the world juniors with only five defencemen.