Iroquois Falls has served the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League well for almost 20 years. Perhaps now the NOJHL can show some love to the little town that loves hockey.
Since entering the NOJHL in 1999, Iroquois Falls has annually been at or near the top of the league attendance board despite being a small market franchise with a population of about 4,500.
But for the first time since 1999, Iroquois Falls faces the prospect of there being no junior hockey in town once the first puck drops on the 2017-2018 season.
Despite averaging 346 fans per game in 2016-2017 — third best in the 12-team NOJHL — the Iroquois Falls franchise has been sold and moved 180 miles away to Hearst, a remote town of about 5,000 residents.
So for now — and with the NOJHL maxed out at 12 teams — junior hockey is gone from Iroquois Falls and its stately, jewel-of-a-facility, the venerable Jus Jordan Arena, aka the Igloo.
But even though it won’t have the Eskis to cheer for come the ’17-18 season, Iroquois Falls figures to play host to at least a few games at the Igloo.
Good guy Ryan Leonard, who is the owner, general manager and coach of the nearby Cochrane Crunch, told HockeyNewsNorth.com that he plans to play “a couple” of home games in Iroquois Falls next season.
Which would at least be a start.
And perhaps if the Timmins Rock and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners would step up and each play a few home games at the Igloo next season, the good hockey folks of Iroquois Falls would have something to look forward to next winter.
One would think that Timmins owes Iroquois Falls at least a few games. After all, over many years when Timmins was without an NOJHL team, Iroquois Falls scheduled a number of home games for its neighbour town.
To be sure, Cochrane, Timmins and Kirkland Lake are all within an easy driving distance of Iroquois Falls. Cochrane is 31 miles away, Timmins is 45 miles away and Kirkland Lake is 67 miles away.
There is also the fact that Iroquois Falls out-drew both Cochrane and Kirkland Lake over the course of the ’16-17 season. As the Eskis averaged 346 fans per game, Kirkland Lake averaged 297 and Cochrane averaged 276.
A nice scenario would see Cochrane, Timmins and Kirkland Lake all agreeing to play two to four home games apiece in Iroquois Falls next season. As in, let’s show a long-time supporter and good friend of the NOJHL some love.
PHOTO: Inside Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls.