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OHA Expansion Talk Heats Up

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OHA Expansion Talk Heats Up November 7, 2012 8:27 AM

Hockey Canada’s "Tomorrows Game" plan does not receive a lot of coverage in the United States. For the most part US players are too focussed on what the NAHL and USHL are doing. For the last few years the OJHL has been contracting teams to raise the level of play within the league. Very few in the US have noticed, but the plan has certainly worked well.

"Tomorrows Game" calls for a streamlined system of development, and that system looks to be working. Managing the OJHL as junior "A", the GOJHL as junior "B" and seven different leagues playing at the junior "C" level, the OHA has had its hands full. Managing the development of the game in the areas surrounding Toronto is no small task, and the ice is littered with political casualties.

In the midst of searching for a new Chief Executive Officer, the OHA isnt slowing down.

Now, the Ontario Hockey Association is in the process of exploring expansion for next season. Having worked their way through some tough times recently.

“With the amalgamation of Junior B leagues, and a desire to compete nationally at the Junior A level, Junior B interests in and around Metro Toronto declined in the late 1980s, creating a void within the OHA’s Sutherland Cup program, not to mention the loss of opportunity for players,” the league said in a press release. “Now, as a result of the contraction of teams undertaken in and by the Ontario Junior Hockey League to raise the competitive level of that program, both regionally and nationally, there are a number of traditional hockey communities that are now eligible for consideration to return to Sutherland Cup play.”

The league is gauging the interest for a fourth conference in the footprint east of Guelph to begin play next season. TJHN reported on this possibility in early August, and now those sources look to have been accurate.

Bruce Schlitt, chairman of the OHA Junior B expansion committee, said the process is still in its infancy stages.

“We’ve sent out information to teams that are interested and to get back to us by Nov. 15, and at that point is when we’ll sit down and see where things stand,” Schlitt said.

TJHN has learned that four cities have already prepared applications for expansion and as many as eight will be received early next week. Do not be suprised to see cities like Brampton who just lost their OHL team, and Markham who lost their OJHL team earlier this season to get into the mix of consideration.

It would take a minimum of six teams to create another division, although the goal would be eight or more. If a fourth division does happen, it would make for a much more efficient playoff format for the Sutherland Cup.

By Joseph Kolodziej

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