CIHL at the crossroads


Randy Russon
By
January 26, 2015

Yes, there have been struggles. Major struggles, in fact.

For one reason or another, teams have either left on their own or have been shown the door.

To be sure, all has not gone according to the plan of the founder of the first-year Canadian International Hockey League.

Down to three teams now — Batchewana Attack, Espanola Rivermen and Kalkaska Rhinos — the CIHL is moving ahead to finish its debut season with regular-season, playoff games and tournaments that also includes the Detroit Fighting Irish of the Midwest Jr. Hockey League.

Despite all of the upheaval and drama that has enveloped the new CIHL this 2014-2015 season, founder and president Tim Clayden remains committed and focused on the vision and future of the fledgling junior hockey league.

“Anyone can quit,” Clayden said evenly. “It’s easy to quit.”

Clayden is taking full responsibility for what has been a topsy-turvy season.

“I am the one who has to look at myself in the mirror and take responsibility for the failures that we have had as a first-year league,” said Clayden. “I am the one who set up the league with owners who did not follow through on their commitments. I am the one who has to accept responsibility for what went wrong.”

Undaunted, Clayden said the CIHL will finish the 2014-2015 season — and is already looking ahead to 2015-2016.

“Batchewana, Espanola and Kalkaska will all return next season,” Clayden predicted, “and we have a new owner in Sudbury who is ready to start fresh. We have an arena lease to play in Greater Sudbury next season.”

Besides Batchewana, Espanola and Sudbury from northern Ontario and Michigan-based Kalkaska, Clayden said he feels there will be two other teams from the Upper Peninsula that will be a part of the CIHL in 2015-2016.

“I would be very happy with six solid teams with good ownership,” Clayden said evenly.

Looming as a possibility is an interlocking schedule for 2015-2016 with the aforementioned MWJHL, which has a three-team presence in the Detroit area and three more in northern Michigan — Soo Firehawks, Traverse City Hounds and Alpena Flyers.

With all that has gone awry this season, Clayden proudly points to the three remaining teams that are all coached by former National Hockey League players of more than 500 games apiece.

Denny Lambert (who also played and coached in the Ontario Hockey League with the Soo Greyhounds) is Batchewana’s head coach while fellow former NHL journeymen Tom McCarthy and Krzysztof Oliwa perform similar roles with Espanola and Kalkaska, respectively.

Clayden is also proud of the fact that Batchewana defeated the Central Michigan University Chippewas of the American Collegiate Hockey Association in the championship game of a showcase tournament that was held in Kalkaska earlier this month.

Player development is mentioned in the first paragraph of the CIHL mission statement and Clayden said the league is “doing pretty good” in that regard, noting that two Batchewana players were called up to the Tier 1 junior, United States Hockey League earlier this season and that another moved up to the Tier 2 junior, North American Hockey League.

As the CIHL trudges ahead with the completion of its inaugural season, Clayden said he is “already being more diligent” looking ahead to 2015-2016.

“We will learn from our mistakes, that I promise you,” he said. “We have good people among us who like what we do and who are determined to see the CIHL succeed long term.”


What you think about “CIHL at the crossroads”

  1. Hope all goes well for next year. The game friday in Espanola against the Attack was just as fast and action packed as any game last year in the NOJ.
    So I have heard the when Mazzuca allowed the GMHL ownership to take over Mattawa is was based on Mattawa bringing in GMHL team from Bracebridge to the NOJHL but was turned down by the OHA/OHF. So know Mazzuca is allowing the Eskis to relocate to Timmins and the current Eskis group can add a GMHL team in Mattawa thus allowing the GMHL to expand into his backyard east of Sudbury. If anybody else did this type of stuff they would be kicked out of Hockey Canada but Uncle Joe has his nephew Robbie’s back.

  2. I like the idea of 3 Teams from the U.P. and 3 from Northern Ontario Canada. It is hard to beat the Cross Border rivelries.

  3. Mason Dixon, what’s your constant beef with the Noj? This article is about the CIHL but, like all your comments, you have to harp on the Noj and Mazzuca. This has nothing to do with the Noj.

    1. Well the “beef” as you say has to deal with the fact that a Hockey Canada league president has deals with an “outlaw” league which the last time i checked went against rules outlined by Hockey Canada. But I guess when you have that much power the rules don’t apply.

  4. It because mason is actually tim clayden himself the beef is espanola cant play in the noj.Sending the blame elsewhere is what mason does chances are my post will be removed again i have posted a few times and no foul language used but for some reason rr seems to remove them

    1. Hockey12,

      Okay, here it is, for once and for all — your posts do not make it because you insist that Mason Dixon is actually Tim Clayden. That is not only a false statement but a fabrication that I am not going to be responsible for because of what you think is fact, when it really is not.

      Regards,

      RR

  5. Tim made mistakes, and has come forward, more than once, and admitted them. It was a scramble to get a league up and running in a few short months and was overly ambitious. But Espanola chose to leave the NOJ, it was never that they could not play there. And going forward, the CIHL has three model franchises to build on. I believe the same mistakes won`t be made and if it means six strong stable franchises for next year, I`m excited to renew my season tickets and enjoy another season of Rivermen hockey. Rivalry wise, I think that we could have the best of both worlds, with Espanola, Sudbury, Batchewawa, and possibly Blind River for geographical battles, then I`m excited with the cross-border friendly rivalries we can build. The same will go for the American franchises I`m sure, travel partners for Kalkaska, and some great road trips North.

  6. Lol at Gates apparently your mind was flushed in the toilet this morning as teams like the Attack would give most NOJ teams fits

  7. The rumor yesterday was that the Soo Eagles were not going to be skating out of the Pullar Arena next season, and the Soo Firehawks would be moving over there for 2015-2016. RR – Any confirmation of Soo Eagles moving to Chicago or insider information concerning if the Firehawks remain in the MWHL… If this is the scenario coming to Soo, M next season, it would be nice to see the Firehawks move to the CIHL or the NOJHL.

    1. Eagles management and ownership says they will be back in the Soo in 2015-2016 and continuing to play out of the Pullar.

      And if they say so, then I will take their word as they have always been worthy of belief.

  8. I have been following this site for sometime and find most of the articles to be interesting but most posts all about back stabbing each league. It isn’t in all fairness to compare leagues because all 3 leagues have started at different times being the nojha the gmhl and the cihl. I’m not a big fan of hockey Canada because of the cost factor , but to compare the cihl and the so called outlaw gmhl, i can say that the gmhl is growing ever year say what you want but you don’t see the owners of the league making posts protecting the league. On the other hand the cihl is new and no doubt has some impressive people running teams along as some very good talent hockey players on all teams, the grass isn’t greener on the other side so worry about your own backyards and allow the league to go into the direction they may. Best of luck to the cihl and the gmhl there is lots of room for both leagues.

  9. Well Randy another great article and Tim has admitted to the faults of the league and I as a hockey fan hope the league the best it is to bad the southern Ont teams left the CIHL keep the good stuff coming thanks again Shawn

  10. Randy- any insight on the article about the TC Hounds trying to strong arm the Rhinos? If true- very disappointing. I’m sure you know the web page I’m referring to.

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