Make no mistake about it, I am a fan of the NOJHL. I feel it is an under rated and under valued league when it comes to talented players. I count many of the coaches as friends, and I have gotten to know many of the people involved in the league, and with the teams outside of their hockey operations.
Much is being said now about team relocation, expansion, or teams leaving the league. Almost everything being said is not supported by facts.
I have spoken to Tim Clayden on a dozen of occasions. He is moving his Espanola Rivermen Team to his new CIHL. Its his team, his choice, and I wish him luck. Its a business, and in business, people often change how they actually do business. Its not a big deal and it happens every day.
The NOJHL is moving on without Espanola. Again, who cares, its business.
The North Bay Franchise is moving to Mattawa. Again, who cares. Businesses move all the time. Teams relocate all the time. Don’t want your team to move, then support them better at the gate and with corporate sponsorship.
Elliot Lake is moving to Cochrane. Disappointing for Elliot Lake fans after a long run, but in the end there just wasn’t enough support. Its not the fans fault that since the mall collapse that business is struggling. Rumors being spread about the team leaving massive debt behind in Elliot Lake are simply not true. Multiple sources have confirmed there is a minimal ice bill and that a payment arrangement has already been made.
Are new people looking at going back into Elliot Lake and North Bay? Yes, multiple sources outside of the NOJHL have confirmed those rumors. Will it happen? Who knows, but people are doing more than kick tires.
Are most of the NOJHL’s teams in small markets? Yes. Do some struggle to make ends meet? Yes. But the same is true with nearly every hockey team outside of Major Junior and the USHL. The NAHL has some of these same challenges. But teams work hard and they survive or they move to a new location seeking greener pastures.
I understand that fans get hurt when teams move, fold or change leagues. Its part of being a fan of junior hockey, the small town feel, and knowing all the boys when they live in town during the season. Its about wanting the local kid to make the local team. Its all the feel good stuff everyone believes junior hockey to be.
Junior hockey is all of those things. The NOJHL is about all of those things. But in the end, hockey is a business that must be provided cash flow to keep it alive. Long gone are the days where owners were willing to throw tons of money out the window to keep a team alive. Contrary to popular belief, owners aren’t looking for huge tax write offs, they don’t mind loosing a little if they are winning, but in the end they don’t want losses on the balance sheet as much as they don’t want them in the standings.
The rumor mill is just that a rumor mill. The truth is that the NOJHL will be fine, and they will continue to get better as they have made marked improvements over the last five years. Lets speak the truth and not rumor. Its a great place for players, and its a great league for fans.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher