The Ontario Junior Hockey League has announced expansion plans for the 2021-2022 season. Yes, in the middle of a pandemic, the OJHL thinks it is a wise move to offer two expansion franchises for what is being said is an asking price of $800,000.00 to $1,000,000.00 each.
It was just a few years ago the OJHL contracted in order to “increase the level of play”. How is it now that the OJHL, with declining numbers of commitments, believes it is time for expansion?
The alleged interest of the NAHL in Canadian expansion might have something to do with it.
The NAHL has become a leader in NCAA commitments over the last ten years. The OJHL and Canadian Junior Hockey in general have seen commitment numbers decline significantly over that same time period.
The development of the NCDC, continued USPHL growth, and the ever improving EHL have also had a significant impact on the ability of Canadian teams to develop commitments.
The OJHL embracing a pay to play model a few years ago has also had a significant impact on its ability to recruit high level talent. When Hockey Canada removed Provincial import player rules a few years ago, the top talent headed west for free to play hockey, and to the United States for better scouting opportunities.
This is not to say the OJHL is a bad league. Its a very good league. It is just not the development league it once used to be.
The business of hockey changes every year, like every other business. Relying on a “brand” or “history” will no longer allow any business to keep up with its competitors.
There are many things working against Canadian Junior Leagues when it comes to development. Primary in that is their distance from NCAA programs.
With shrinking NCAA scouting budgets, schools simply are not going to Canada as often as they were in years past. With the improvement in United States development, they no longer need to travel to Canada to find players as often.
The OJHL knows this and so do the rest of Canadian teams. So why expand now?
Money. Expansion fee’s get every league excited. In the time of a pandemic, when everyone is bleeding cash, there is no better time to raise some money.
Couple that with perceived interest in the NAHL going to Canada, and you have the perfect time to start selling.
Look for some Junior B teams to take the bait and make the move. Sometimes ego stroking removes all common business sense, and sometimes owners have more money than sense.
The hockey world doesn’t need more pay to play expansion in Canada.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser