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Junior A Primer Ontario – NOJHL

Jr A Primer in Ontario

The Hockey season is on the cusp of beginning yet another season, and this is the time where you can openly discuss what you like and don’t like about the upcoming season before receiving a lot of backlash. Unless you happen to be me and get threats of lawsuits about once a month for writing an opinionated article about the failings of a team in a Jr A league.

Lets take a look at some positives and negatives about the Jr A Leagues in Ontario for the upcoming 2016/17 season.
Please note this list will not include the SIJHL. Every year I strive to learn information about a new league and this year it happens to be the SIJHLs turn.

Also note that no matter how hard they will argue with me on Twitter, the GMHL is not a Jr A league. It is a league that uses various rules they like and has players who are in the ‘Junior’ age bracket according to Minor Hockey.

And finally, The CPJHL will not be discussed here as it has not played a game yet and until that puck is dropped, you are officially not a league. But it too, by their own admission, is not a Jr A league… it is a Jr league.

So basically this series of articles about the NOJHL, CCHL and the OJHL… oh and the GOJHL…. The moment they get approved by the CJHL…. Too soon?

This week lets take a look at the NOJHL.

Last year I had the privilege of speaking with Commissioner Robert Mazzuca, shortly after his return to the league and discussed the expansion the league has undergone. So lets start with that.

1. All 12 teams are returning this season. That is huge. In 2012, the league had 7 teams and was arguably losing many top talents to the OJHL and CCHL. Not losing a franchise this season, even though there was a huge parity gap, shows the commitment to the league by the owners and shows that Mazzuca must have a decent head on his shoulder to continue to build this league and develop many players to various levels.

2. The NOJHL showcase will be a success. Think about it. If you are a league who have developed a record amount players in recent years, you don’t really need this showcase to boost yourself up. But what this showcase will do is not only put more eyeballs on the league. It will make scouts regularly visit the NOJHL rinks and continue to find those hidden gems. Whether it is NCAA, CIS or CHL teams, there are players in the NOJHL that can compete and this exposure over the two day event will produce more commitments than last season. With 19 in 2013/2014, 31 from 14/15 and 38 listed on their 15/16 commitments list, it seems like a good wager the league can hit 40 this season. in fact they already have 30 on their 2016/17 page. Showcases are a great idea and it is about time the NOJHL had one.

3. An Agent/Owner is the best thing for an NOJHL franchise. This past season the Rayside-Balfour Canadians were sold to Adrian Gedye, an Agent/Advisor with Uptown Sports. I wrote about it here (https://ohlwriters.me/2016/04/16/rayside-balfour-canadians-owner-agent/) and it basically states that this is the best the league can hope for. If you are a fan of TJHN then you know you take someone’s word with a grain of salt. A ‘we believe it when we see it’ approach. And that is fair, but if Gedye follows through with his plan and make his team younger, competitive and provides development in year one… You may want a few more owners to turn over their keys to other agent/advisors.

4. The main negative about this league is the lack of parity. And parity is good or bad depending on who you are and what you want. For me, I want the NOJHL to be close. You have 12 franchises and it is a 3 horse race at best and you can predict the three teams from the beginning. Last year you had one ‘SUPER LOSER’ who posted two wins in the season, 3 teams in the bottom 3rd of the league with 1 of those three being a playoff team by default because of the two win franchise. Your 3.5 elite teams and the middle. If you can get less middle teams, more upper teams, this would be a dream league with the only other negative being that it is in Northern Ontario.

5. Last complaint is going to be a theme in this series. Make HD Camera’s mandatory. Fasthockey is great. Commentators, not so much, video quality is terrible. The USHL mandated that HD Cameras must be used… ok Jr A in Canada… get on board with that. NOW. I often watch the fasthockey feeds on mute. I know the commentators are volunteers… at least I hope they are because if some of them get paid, where do I sign up? I can be a bad commentator too. Ask the Toronto Patriots when I fill in for their guy.

As follow up to this article an audio interview with Commissioner Mazzuca will follow and be posted shortly after this. We will go over more highs and lows of the league and give him a platform to explain why his league will take over 2nd spot in the battle of Ontario Jr A leagues… for the record that is my opinion. I do not know if Mazzuca will agree with me… but I can try to persuade him of it in the interview.

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