The Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League had three teams and an unbalanced schedule in 2019.
This year, the league welcomes two new clubs in familiar cities and will play a balanced schedule.
Joining the existing clubs, Vernon Tigers, Kamloops Venom and the reigning champion South Okanagan Flames of Penticton, are the expansion Kelowna Kodiaks and the re-born Armstrong Shamrocks.
The Junior Irish took a leave in 2019 after 16 consecutive seasons in the loop. The club will be called the Shamrocks but there will be more of a Shuswap connection to the team.
“The team will play out of Armstrong early in the year, then move to the Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm,” said TOJLL commissioner Jeff Hanley. “The executive of the team is mostly from Salmon Arm, the players are mostly from Salmon Arm and the coach (Andy Sidorsky) is from there as well. The team will use the Shamrocks’ jerseys for one year. The intention is to see how it goes in 2020.”
The Kodiaks will take the place of the Kelowna Raiders, who left the league in 2018.
“It’s a whole new organization,” said Hanley. “They’ve got a group of parents in place for the executive and a number of players out of minor lacrosse.”
The Kodiaks will play their home games out of the Rutland Arena.
“Having five teams is healthy for the league,” said Vernon general manager Duane Barr. “We’re not playing the same two teams all the time. It’s nice to see Kelowna and Armstrong-Salmon Arm back.”
Each team will play a 16-game schedule – two home games and two away games against the other teams – with the top four squads making the playoffs.
The first-round playoff semifinals will be best-of-three contests, and the championship series is a best-of-five.
The league will hold its annual Archie Jack Memorial Icebreaker Tournament on Sunday, April 19, at the Kelowna Memorial Arena.
The regular season kicks off the following weekend when the Tigers visit the Flames and the Shamrocks play in Kamloops on Friday, April 24.
Armstrong’s home opener will be Saturday, April 25, against the Venom at the Nor-Val Sports Centre. Vernon will play its home opener on Saturday, May 9, against the Kodiaks at Kal Tire Place.