While the Espanola Rivermen have made their intentions of leaving the NOJHL known publicly and privately, those intentions had a very real sense of finality last night.
Being swept by the Kirkland Lake Goldminers, was not what the Rivermen would have thought could happen, or had visualized at the start of the playoffs. But that’s just what happened.
One has to wonder if all the speculation and rhetoric regarding the Rivemen moving to the Canadian International Hockey League left players and staff less focused on the task at hand. Distractions have a way of interfering with success, in hockey more than any sport that statement is true.
Make no mistake, the NOJHL version of the Espanola Rivermen were loaded with offensive talent. The team was very well coached, and the fan base came out to every game. They had a great regular season in every possible way until word got out that the team was looking at leaving the league in an ill timed statement to the Canadian Press by Owner Tim Clayden.
Once public statements were made Clayden was suspended and fined by the NOJHL.
The problem with the statements is a simple one. They were not founded in facts being reported to TJHN by other league members.
One item of contention was the NOJHL offices and staff budget. While complaints on spending were made publicly, the budget was approved by the entire league with a vote. Multiple sources have stated that every opportunity to make changes to the budget proposal were available to every owner.
Another claim was that the Elliot Lake Bobcats move to Cochrane Ontario would increase costs by the tens of thousands of dollars. That claim is simply not backed up by the math, and yet again the whole league voted on the move and approved the move.
While much is being made about Clayden having a problem with Commissioner Rob Mazzuca the bottom line is that the people Clayden should be mad at are his other NOJHL owners. According to NOJHL bylaws, it is the owners who control all of the leagues budgets and locations, not the commissioner.
Did the Commissioner suspend and fine Clayden? He did. Did Clayden make public statements that went against the best interests of the NOJHL a league he belonged to at the time? He did. It’s no different than McDonalds handing down a fine to a franchisee who doesn’t follow the franchise rules they signed on to follow. If they mess up bad enough McDonalds has no problem shutting down an operation, or taking away the franchise. Its called business.
The problem is, people tend to take business personally. In hockey that is preposterous to even think franchise owners and staff would take that personally. They cut players every year and expect the player to not take it personally saying its just hockey. So what’s the difference?
Now much has also been said about the new CIHL that the Espanola Rivermen will be a part of next year. Much of what has been said is that the idea is to bring in more and higher level scouting for the players. What’s been said is not based on any fact and only based on the hope that this might happen.
The truth is, the GMHL which is a similar league, does not move players to college or the professional ranks by any numbers that anyone would consider significant. This league will likely be just the same.
Every person can choose to do what they want with their franchise and their money. Now the Rivermen are free to do what they want to do. The players will be free to go where they want to go, and the NOJHL can add teams or move teams. Although the chapter is technically over, I am sure much more will be said, but in the end, its just business, so don’t take it personally its just hockey.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher