Major, massive, progressive changes are coming to the Great North Midget Hockey League effective the 2019-2020 season.
Second-year commissioner Albert Corradini has confirmed that governors from the eight-member Great North — which is made up of six major midget teams (16 and 17-year old players) and two minor midget squads (15-year olds) — unanimously approved the sweeping changes.
“As commissioner, I am pretty pleased,” Corradini relayed. “A lot of work went in to seeing this through.”
As Hockey Canada is in the process of making changes to its development model, Corradini said the Great North “is getting ahead of the curve.
“For us, the hockey season was starting too early and ending too early and we were losing some of our players to junior A and junior B (i.e., the Central Canada Hockey League, Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League and Greater Ontario Jr. Hockey League) because of our shorter season,” Corradini said evenly.
Ergo, the Great North is not only expanding its regular-season schedule and enhancing its playoff format for the six major midget clubs but also increasing the number of tournaments that teams can play in to four.
So, the way it will play out for the six major midget teams — Soo Greyhounds, Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves, North Bay Major Trappers, Kapuskasing Flyers, New Liskeard Cubs and Timmins Majors — is a 38-game regular-season schedule plus four tournaments that provide a minimum of four contests apiece.
Add in the fact that all six major midget clubs are guaranteed at least five playoff games apiece under a revised format, thus teams will be in a position to play 59 games — if not more — over the course of the 2019-2020 season.
Previously, major midget teams played a 36-game regular season schedule and with a best-of-three, first-round playoff format, could have been eliminated after just two games.
Which brings us to the new, tournament-style, playoff format for the six major midget teams.
All teams will take part in the round-robin, playoff tournament, which is slated to begin on March 12, 2020. Each team will play one another once, for a total of five games. Then, the top four teams will advance to either bronze-medal or gold-medal games.
The gold-medal winning team will then have two weeks to prepare for the Ontario Hockey Federation championship tournament.
As for the location of the new Great North playoff tournament, it will rotate from year to year and all games will be played in one town.
A draw has already been held and Kapuskasing will play host to the tournament in 2020, followed by Sudbury in 2021, Timmins in 2022, New Liskeard in 2023, Sault Ste. Marie in 2024 and North Bay in 2025.
Of further note, as the Great North strives for more opportunities for its players, it will send an all-star team made up of the 20 best major midget or minor midget aged players to a prestigious tournament in Chicoutimi in December that is hosted by the Ligue de Hockey Midget AAA du Quebec. (LHMAAAQ.)
Corradini noted that the annual Quebec tournament, which features 24 teams from Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes, has become a haven for Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association scouts as well as general managers from the Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League.
“There are even National Hockey League general managers and scouts who attend, I am told,” said Corradini.
Meanwhile, Jamie Henderson, who is the head coach of the Soo major midget team, applauded the steps taken by the Great North.
“It’s great to be a part of a league that is trying to promote its players by ensuring the same players are the priority,” Henderson began. “Whether it’s more games or a longer season, the midget season could include 60 plus games and 100 practices for our program, which is amazing for those serious about moving on to the next level.
“The board room of the Great North league deserves a ton of credit and it’s an exciting time for everyone involved,” Henderson added.
Looking ahead, the 2019-2020 Great North regular season will begin on the weekend of September 27, which is a full three weeks later than usual. It will also end more than a month later than in previous years.
Before that, on the weekend of September 20, Great North teams will participate in the well-scouted, highly-recommended Toronto Titans Tournament.
“OHL general managers and scouts have told us that if there was a particular tournament of choice for our teams to go to, it would be the one hosted by the Toronto Titans,” Corradini noted.
On the minor midget side, the regular-season schedule will increase from 24 to 30 games for both the Sudbury Minor Wolves and the North Bay Minor Trappers.
The two minor midget teams will play each other six times and also face off against the six major midget teams four times apiece. The minor midget teams are also slated to play in “five or six tournaments” according to Corradini.
“Our hope and expectation is that all of this will increase exposure, create better competition and give more opportunity to each and every one of our players on each and every one of our member teams,” Corradini concluded.
As it was, the Great North enjoyed a banner 2019, OHL priority selections draft as 14 of its players were picked, including two first rounders.
Goalie Ben Gaudreau of North Bay went in the first round, seventh overall, to the Sarnia Sting while defenseman Jack Matier of the Soo was the first pick of the Ottawa 67’s, 21st overall.