IHAAZ season to start later, State Finals event extended
It will be a little bit longer than normal before the IHAAZ season gets underway.
The offseason has been extended as a result of changes that should benefit the league in the long run.
Starting with the 2020 season, the start date for the season is now February instead of December. That will mean one less festival. In addition, the IHAAZ State Finals will now be played over two weekends and push the end of the season later into May.
IHAAZ tournament director Nick Boyarsky believes the changes should add excitement to the season ahead. He’s looking forward to seeing things get started.
“With one less festival, the fatigue of playing the same teams will hopefully lessen and make for more competitive and exciting season, especially for our league format teams in regular season,” Boyarsky said.
Boyarsky said spreading out the state tournaments will create more flexibility with scheduling and there won’t be a feel of the action being crammed into a small amount of time.
“Over the past few seasons, we’ve surpassed the team count threshold for what a two-and-a-half-day event can accommodate,” Boyarsky said. “With games starting mid-afternoon on Friday and basically running through Sunday late evening, we only have about six hours between the end of each night and the start of the next morning.”
Having multiple weekends for the state tournament is not a new thing. It’s been done in the past.
“When the league was larger, we always ran multiple weekends, but when the team counts dropped below 30, we started trying to cram it into one,” Boyarsky said.
The two weekends for states also provide more spotlight opportunities for the players.
“The final splitting of the State Finals tournament into two weekends allows for better game times, more recognition of players and teams via skills competitions that will be more open to more players, as well as all-star games, and expanded awards ceremonies,” Boyarsky said.
The reason behind the changes is to avoid conflict with ice hockey season since so many players play both sports.
The later start to the season and later finish should benefit IHAAZ in terms of participation, perhaps bringing in more players interested in giving the sport a shot.
“Starting in February allows programs more time to recruit and find interested players and entire teams that are now showing interest in IHAAZ,” Boyarsky said. “The later finish is again to avoid the tryout period for ice hockey.”
Boyarsky is hopeful the changes will avoid the issues IHAAZ ran into last year when some teams weren’t able to compete in the State Finals because of ice hockey.
“We share so many players in the Valley with ice hockey that working around them is now part of what we need to do to allow them to participate,” Boyarsky said. “Last season, having multiple teams not play State Finals last season due to ice tryout conflicts was unfortunate. We are working to make sure that no player will have to choose again. That has been in the forefront of our planning for 2020.”
Roller hockey has grown in popularity over the years and continues to do so. Boyarsky is looking forward to another season and is confident the changes will have a positive impact on the league overall.
The fact that there are fewer games on the schedule this coming season makes every game count a little bit more and enhances the competition factor.
“Again, having fewer regular-season games, it will make every game more important in determining a state champion,” Boyarsky said. “The two weekend State Finals will allow us to offer better game times and a chance to put on a more complete event.”
— Brian Lester
(Oct. 28, 2019)