It is what we think it is

March 24, 2014

Opinions and views are varying and open to debate.

They are neither right or wrong, except in the eyes of the beholder.

In other words, it is what we think it is, be it everyday life or the game of hockey.

* I do not like Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch.

I do not trust him either.

There are many reasons, built up over the 30 years that I have known Branch, why I simply cannot stand the man.

But like him or not, Branch is one of the most-powerful men in the major junior hockey world.

Branch is the commissioner of the OHL and president of the Canadian Hockey League.

I am a sportswriter and sportscaster who lives in Sault Ste. Marie, just down the road from Blind River.

It is what it is.

* I like Sudbury Wolves owner Mark Burgess.

Some may not like Burgess but I do.

In my books, he is a smart businessman, an honest guy and generous to a fault.

He treats his employees well and he has a history of over-paying his coaches.

I could care less what writer Ken Campbell of the Hockey News thinks of Burgess and the fact that the owner’s 17-year old son plays for the Wolves.

Burgess owns the Wolves. Campbell doesn’t.

I like Burgess and I don’t like Campbell.

It is what it is.

* I would like the Soo Greyhounds to win the OHL championship this season.

But I don’t think they will because they are not as good as the Guelph Storm, Erie Otters or London Knights, who are all from the same Western Conference that the Greyhounds play within.

There are Greyhounds fans out there who think the Soo is better than Erie and London, if not Guelph.

Personally, I think Guelph is going all the way because the team assembled by general manager Mike Kelly is the best in the entire OHL.

Not that the championship hinges on what I think.

The OHL championship will be decided on ice and sportswriters and fans have no say in who gets there and what the outcome will be.

It is what it is.

* There is some bad blood between Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League commissioner Robert Mazzuca and Espanola Rivermen owner Tim Clayden.

Mazzuca feels he was right to suspend Clayden indefinitely for remarks he made to a few weeks back.

Clayden feels he was suspended because he had just served notice to Mazzuca and the NOJHL that he plans to take his Espanola team to a new junior hockey league after this season.

The two are also at odds over scheduling dates of the upcoming NOJHL playoff series between Espanola and the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.

Knowing what I know, I think Mazzuca is wrong and Clayden is right.

But that is just me.

And for the record, I have had dinner with Mazzuca and have never had dinner with Clayden.

It is what it is.

* There are fans of the NOJHL’s Kirkland Lake Gold Miners who don’t think I give their team enough credit.

Some of those same fans have sent me e-mails calling me all sorts of nasty names and accusing me of being biased against Kirkland Lake and for the Soo Thunderbirds, Blind River Beavers and Espanola.

To be sure, those Kirkland Lake fans can say what they like and think what they want.

As can I.

I say what I say and I write what I write.

If anyone doesn’t like it, they shouldn’t read it.

It is what it is.

* I like the North American Hockey League.

As a hockey writer, it means little to me that I live in Canada and that the NAHL is based in the United States of America.

This is not about nationality or waving the flag.

I like to write about Tier 2 junior hockey and I like to write about certain teams in the NAHL as much as I like to write about certain teams in the NOJHL.

And if a parent asks me if I think his or her son is better off playing in the NAHL with the Michigan Warriors or in the NOJHL with the Soo Thunderbirds I will answer the question the way I honestly feel, based on the circumstance.

It is what it is.

* I like the Soo Eagles of the NAHL.

I consider Eagles coach Bruno Bragagnolo to be a friend of mine.

When Bruno tells me that certain information is “between us” it stays “between us.”

Just as if, for example, Michigan Warriors coach Moe Mantha were to tell me that something about a certain player was “between us.”

If it’s “between us” it stays “between us” — whether I am a friend of the Soo Eagles coach or not.

“Between us” means “between us.”

It is what it is.

What you think about “It is what we think it is”

  1. Randy, this is your website and your platform to express your opinions. Anyone could quickly put together a website and a blog and express their opinion. We can see by the comments left on this website and your blog that opinions vary tremendously from person to person, often based on where they come from.

    You like Soo teams because you live there and you’ve gotten to know the people associated with these teams. You like their players because you see them often and have had interactions with them. You seem to have a penchant for Soo area defencemen and seem to write about them every few articles. It’s your prerogative and your opinion.

    Your opinion of Dave Branch is not shared by all. It doesn’t make the opinion of others who like him wrong.

    Your opinion of Mark Burgess is not shared by many in the Sudbury area. You have your reasons for defending him, but those who have dealt with him directly (Wolves, minor hockey) see him in a very different light. Where you see honesty, most in Sudbury see deceit.

    Do you believe Fixter is a better coach than Cull? Cull left for obvious reasons known to all. But he was a very coach.

    We could have an hour long debate about him but, as you say, it is what it is. Nepotism seems to be alive and well in Sudbury. It is at the OHL level, it was with Scott running the Jr A team in years past and it will continue next year as rumour has it that both sons of the owner will play for the Barons. It is what it is.

    I don’t know enough about the Espanola situation to properly comment and I can’t base my opinion of it on the two illiterate fools who post constant garbage comments on this site. Suffice it to say that Clayton has established good programs in NB and now Espo and will probably be successful in this new league… if the new league itself is successful. I do fail to see how travel costs will be reduced. Clayton argued that having Cochrane replace Elliot Lake makes his participation in the NOJHL not feasible because of this increased travelling cost (one extra night on the road during 4 weekends). He fails to mention that there are still a few teams in the league (Blind River, Sudbury and to a lessor extent the Soo and NB) that are day trips that he won’t have when his closest rival is 5 hours away and most much farther than that. It just seems like a hypocritical excuse. So, it’s a matter of opinion and perception. It will be interesting to see where Espo plays next year if this new league doesn’t happen or is delayed by a year. They are certainly not welcomed in the NOJHL anymore and, for that, I think we can all agree that Mazzuca doesn’t have a choice than to bid them farewell.

    When KL fans read your site, they see article after article mostly about Soo teams and not necessarily the NOJHL. It’s your site and you write about what you know and what you care for. When Espo places a microphone in back of their bench, you post a negative article about the language used by Marc Lafleur but nothing about the mic. You could just easily write and article about the language used by the Espo coach, and you wouldn’t need a mic to hear it clearly. The same language is used in back of the Soo bench, in back of the Sudbury bench, in back of the EL bench. It might not be as loud as the Espo coach, but it’s all the same. I saw the NB owner in back of the NB bench once this year and he went berserk. So, KL fans have a beef with you… it is what it is. Soo and Espo fans love you… it is what it is!

    1. Mike, as I clearly state in the second sentence of my column:

      “(Opinions) are neither right or wrong, except in the eyes of the beholder.”

      Which takes away your whole stand about liking David Branch or not and liking Mark Burgess or not.

      It does not bother me in the least if my opinions lie in the minority.

      They are my opinions — and they are neither right or wrong.

  2. Mike,

    P.S. Maybe anyone can put together a website and offer their opinions, as you state.

    Having said that, I am thankful and humbled with the advertising support that I have received to date.

    It is what it is.

  3. Speaking of fools Mike you should look in the mirror — i know for sure Sudbury will miss having Espanola in the league as we made up well over half of their crowds. I hope you realize that there will be more than one team leaving at the end of this season. Apparently without knowing people you have your opinion of them. Thanks Randy for being an honest reporter.

  4. Opinions are like @&$holes, everyone has one and If you have one then you are one! Mike…..I have no problems with anybody having an opinion wether I agree or not, we are free to think freely, but I do believe that if you have no idea what you are talking about then you should keep them to yourself until you completely understand. I also believe that resorting to name calling drastically reduces the significance of your opinion!

    From an illiterate fool!

  5. Mike, I get why a KL resident would want more KL content, but this website is run from the Soo, and I think it’s unrealistic for you to expect the quantity of content not to skew that way.

    I like Belgian beer, but when I go to a Beer Store, there is more domestic beer. There is some Belgian beer, and I’m grateful for it, but it’d be unrealistic for me to think that it’d be equal, right?

  6. Interesting article as always Randy , and while I tend to agree that it is a tad bit Soo centric at times, your articles have been the best way for me to keep informed on the comings and goings of the NOJHL.

    The Sudbury Star barely covers the Barons let alone the NOJHL. I would argue that if some teams out there feel like they aren’t being given enough consideration by Randy then they should get their communications people to develop a relationship with Randy and keep him abreast of whats going on with their team. It would be difficult to write articles of teams you know little about.

    There is so much I could blab on about but i think what i want to tackle today is the lack of NCAA commitements I have heard of this year from the NOJHL. I am a HUGE NOJHL fan and i think the commisionner and executive or whoever runs this show needs to spend some time thinking about how they can get those scouts up here. Most of the kids that play in the NOJHL are looking for NCAA, very few will play CIS. It’s no surprise that the Espanola management team is looking to the US to settle in, at least there the boys will have a chance to being seen. There are a lot of quality players in the NOJHL this year and I think a better effort should be made to showcase them.

  7. I think a lot of the issues in the NOJHL start and finish with Tim Clayden but with that being said I hear the Trappers have fully moved into Mattawa and the owner has bought a house in Mattawa, I know this because I’m cousins with the seller 🙂 I’m happy Mattawa will have a team in the NOJHL!

    1. then like anything he has done, he is doing it wrong, as he doesn’t own the team outright.. unless he has been given an expansion team because he has not paid for the team fully

  8. Randy, none of my comment was meant to be disparaging for you. My comments about Branch and Burgess are exactly as you say… some like them, some don’t. As you say, it’s in the eye of the beholder. It’s not a stand. It’s an opinion. You like Burgess. Most in Sudbury don’t. That’s their opinion.

    What is your opinion about the hiring and the job that Mr. Fixter has done so far? My opinion is that Cull was a very good coach and I would have liked to see what he could have done with this roster and the players they brought in to try to win it all this season.

    As far as the website, it’s great that you’re getting advertising and making money off of it. Kudos.

    1. Mike,

      With regards to the OHL Wolves, Trent Cull coached them for three full seasons, made the playoffs each time and won two series. Paul Fixter is in his first season with the Wolves so I won’t compare the two.

      What I will say is that Wolves GM Blaine Smith has given Fixter a strong, veteran-laden team to work with. The Wolves were contending for first in the Eastern Conference for a good chunk of this season only to finish fifth.

      I think that if the Wolves lose to Barrie in the first round of the playoffs that Fixter has a lot of explaining to do. This Wolves team was built to win the Eastern Conference title this season — or at least win two rounds of playoffs.

  9. Bobby, I have no issue that most of the content is about Soo teams and Soo players. It’s Randy’s website and he’s allowed to put on it what he should and what is of interest to him. Hence, most of the advertisement is from the Soo (along with the Espanola team) as it should be.

  10. I agree Randy but Cull did not have the players Fixter now has and, in my opinion, did well considering the players he had at his disposal. This is a veteran team that has nose dived for the past two months. There is something wrong in Wolf land and the players’ efforts and passion is now missing. On paper, they have the best team in the East. On paper, they might even be better than the Greyhounds. Imagine what a coach like Keefe could do if he had a full team and could dress the best players, game in game out.

    1. Mike,

      I already pretty much said what you just did about the Wolves — that Smith has provided Fixter with a very strong team that was built to win the Eastern Conference.

      No question in my mind that in the Eastern Conference, Smith gave Fixter a team that should have finished first or second — and should at least make it to the Conference finals.

      I am not going to compare Cull with Fixter just yet.

      But if the playoffs end for Sudbury the way they have started, I can’t see Messrs. Burgess and Smith being all that thrilled with Mr. Fixter.

      Wolves lose to Barrie and there will be a lot of howling in Sudbury.

  11. lol yee haw this is a beauty! Almost as good as the punch up in the igloo last week!
    btw that toe to toe battlef between Robert and Simpson was about as good as it in tier 2!

    Ill play devils advocate and say that Randy never said Burgess was the best ohl team owner or the Hunters! People who dont like Burgess is because of hockey, but very men or families have given more to Sudbury, I know people with ties to hockey and say Burgess is very good man! Again, Randy never best owner!

    Many KL fans, Mike excluded are self proclaimed know it alls and think the Miners are the only thing matters, most know more about hockey after less than 3 years of existense than we’ll ever know! Making matters worse is they are going to win the league in the next 4 weeks! Very good team coached and played by people never grew up or played a game of hockey in the KL minor hockey system! That being said, top notch board of directors! i love volunteers and they have good ones, but so does every team! Doesnt matter tho, it has limited effect on the ice, because the game is played on the ice, and coached from the bench! did i mention none of are from KL or played in KL? save Doc who is the leagues best asst coach! Truth is KL hasnt produced a player or a winner in decades, ‘m happy their fans will taste victory, some die hards there, Mike is one of em, and a wonderful volunteer for many years!

    I love the Hounds, my favorite O team and im happy for Sheldon Keefe, i hope Lafleur finds similar success but i think that will be a stretch!

    I dont like Clayden’s history, but he’s a business man, he smells bucks in European players and good businessmen need a nose like that to keep being good businessmen! Id like to say hes self serving, but hes provided many many kids the opportunity to play hockey, i like that part!

    Loved the Soo Eagles when they were part of NOJHL, they were lead by the same chief, he won a championship and brought Jake Patterson to our rinks and credibility to our little league along with more NCAA, major Jr, NAHL and USHL scouts! I miss the Eagles!

    Randy is only guy who writes about the league that is the NOJHL, sure there is more west content, but that’s where he lives! He writes more about all teams than anyone else does, doesnt he? I am a long time RR fan/follower and appreciate the opportunity he gives me to piss everyone else off!

    As for me, i just hope me and the Igloomaniacs havent watched our Abitibi Eskimos play their last game in the Igloo! Its been so much fun the past 15 years, and know i wont be the only one who will dearly miss them, and one day the NOJHL will miss them too! Please, boys gives us at least one dance Wednesday night! Good Luck tonight!

  12. Hey RR – love your comment about the NAHL, because it reminds me of an interview I heard many years ago. Morton Schulman, self-made millionaire, was asked for his advice on how to make very profitable investments. He promptly listed a portfolio of major American corporations. The interviewer, somewhat miffed, was critical of his choices, noting there were no Canadian companies on the list. To which Schulman replied, “You asked me how to make money, not how to be patriotic.” (I know – not much to do with hockey – just interesting.)

    I don’t know Burgess personally, but I am aware of his storied generosity. However, I’ll not forgive him for the shabby way he treated Bert Templeton (Wolves Coach/GM at the time) who was dying of terminal cancer.

    (PS – “either…….or” – “neither…….nor”. Whoda thunk it eh?)

    It looks like ‘eskisfan’ gets his wish – at least one more dance, one more kick at the can in the Igloo. Good luck to all.

    And I don’t think much of the Trappers/Blackhawks chances in Mattawa. Less than 200 fans for a pair of do-or-die playoff games for their new Junior A hockey team!? Cheers!

  13. Hey EskisFan,
    You got your wish. The Bobcats are coming back. The Eskis have an amazing rink. I was there Sunday. We made the drive from Elliot Lake. It was a great game. But Eski fans are too quiet. And also I was a little disappointed when I didn’t see any Eski fans in Elliot Lake. Enjoy the last game at the Igloo Wednesday night the Bobcats are coming home winners…. Just wish I could come and watch the game again. Be proud of your community I just wish 600 plus people would come to watch the Bobcats play.

  14. Hey North Hockey Fan its almost 5 hour drive each way, got home at 4 am. 10 hours driving to go and see a game. Took day off to go and went to work this AM with 2 hours sleep. How can you expect a working person to follow their team.

  15. its fine rink indeed NHF, it was good to see a nice contingent on hand to follow the cats! if you thought it was quiet on sunday, youd be less impressed in regular season action, i thought that was the loudest its been all year!

    its been a beauty of a series, each team with an OT win, two games with each team winning by least a 4 goal spread and each team winning a 1 goal game! too bad only one team can move on, its going to be a heartbreaker for one of these teams but it wont be because of lack of effort!

    yes my wish came true, at least one more game for the Eskis faithful, should be lose i hope we give our Eskimos a nice send off, just in case the unmentionable happens prior to the start of 2014-15 campaign! leave it all on the ice boys!

  16. Hey Eskisfan,
    Good Luck tomorrow night. Just a warning there will be some Bobcat fans in the building and they promise it to be even louder. I just wish I was there.

    Hey Art1,
    I was there Sunday night didn’t get home till 5 am Monday morning and I started work at 7. But I would like to say I am glad someone came to watch them. Just wish you made some more noise….

  17. Well , we in Eskie land have at least 2 more games at the Igloo… game tonight , good 3rd period from the eskimos , could of have been anyone`s game .
    Can`t say it was too quiet when you get 825 screaming fans with approx. 20 cheering for the visitors. Wonder if the winner of the 50 -50 bought a round at the Blue Line club….probably not , too many patrons for his $1400.00 winnings.
    Yes , great place , great fans in Eskie land

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