Soo Eagles Apply To NAHL

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Soo Eagles apply to NAHL

Multiple sources within the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and the North American Hockey League have confirmed that the ownership group of the defending NOJHL Soo Eagles have submitted an application for an expansion franchise in the NAHL.

Rumors have been active for the last year that the Eagles would look to the NAHL at some point, those rumors appear to be well founded now.

Of note, this is an expansion application, and not the purchase of the Traverse City Northstars that many had been predicting. The Eagles ownership did meet with Traverse City in November, confirmed by sources within both organizations. The proposed selling price was seen as excessive by the Eagles, thus pushing them to apply as an expansion team.

The application was submitted before the USA Hockey December 15th deadline. However, the approval of the application is not something that will simply be rubber stamped.

Any NAHL team can object to the application simply based upon increased travel costs. The Michigan Amateur Hockey Association will have to give approval, and that may not come as easily as the Eagles are thinking it will.

The Eagles have many positives in their favor. A very wealthy ownership group, a championship level team in the NOJHL, great leadership on and off the ice, and the political connections to help grease the wheels. The city has supported the team, and it is in a great location for colleges to scout as well as the OHL.

TJHN has been informed that the Eagles are looking to join the NAHL in order to increase scouting opportunity for their players. This reason on its face would be great for the players if it were founded on facts to back up the reasoning. Examining the scouting opporunity for players in the Eagles organization leads to some very interesting conclusions.

The Eagles are located less than 10 minutes from Lake Superior State University, a few hours from Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan University, Ferris State, and some high quality D-3 NCAA programs. Approximately five hours away are Western Michigan, Michigan State, and the University of Michigan. The Soo Greyhouds of the OHL are right across the border. Its fairly easy to see that there are pleanty of schools and opportunity for the Eagles players to be seen. The only reason scouts may not come to watch the Eagles may be that the Eagles need to be more pro active in their reaching out to scouts and inviting them to watch.

The Eagles also have the benefit of a great rivalry with the Soo Thunderbirds on the Canadian side of the bridge. This rivarly gives both teams cross over ticket sales and fans that follow both teams. Leaving the NOJHL would mean leaving that rivalry behind. The loss of this rivalry could be just another reason why this potential move to the NAHL does not make sense.

With Traverse City actively seeking buyers, the Eagles having been approached themselves, what happens if they are sold to an out of state owner? The closest rival for the Eagles in that case would be the Flint (Michigan) Warriors, roughly five hours away. Trips to Jamestown New York would be roughly 11 hours, and thats if Jamestown is not sold or moved again as being rumored to happen this summer.

What happens if Flint, Jamestown and Traverse City are no longer? The closest rivals would be Port Huron at five and a half hours, Kalamazoo at six hours, and Chicago at close to nine hours. Those kinds of bus trips will not help the Eagles when recruiting.

The other question to be addressed will be what happens to the existing NOJHL franchise that is sanctioned by USAH and Hockey Canada. Can the NOJHL sell the franchise if they take it away from the Eagles? NOJHL bylaws prohibit teams from owning another team. There would defintiely appear to be a question of territory rights to be clarified. This could easily be handled with USAH and Hockey Canada agreeing to allow the NOJHL to move the franchise to another city in Michigan. Again though, MAHA may object to this as well.

Or will the Eagles ownership have the NOJHL bylaws altered so that they may continue to operate a franchise in both leagues? This according to one source is an option. Clearly both teams would not be operated in the Soo, so if this takes place it=s their a possibility the Eagles stay in the Soo and put the NAHL team someplace else? Either way, it looks as though the NAHL expands yet again, this time, whith a quality and experienced ownership and management group.

The application of the Eagles to the NAHL creates more questions than it does answers for both the NAHL and NOJHL. TJHN will continue to follow this story as events take place.

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