The landscape shifts from season to season.
The footprints vary from league to league.
Such is life in the junior hockey world where change is inevitable and uncertainty is a certainty.
Let’s begin with the new Canadian International Hockey League which recently completed its inaugural season with the Batchewana Attack upending the Espanola Rivermen to win the championship series in four straight games.
Well-coached-and-mentored by former National Hockey League player and erstwhile Ontario Hockey League player and coach Denny Lambert, who brought credibility, integrity and respect to the league, Batchewana was the jewel in an other-wise tacky first season for the CIHL.
And as Lambert says he believes in the future and concept of the independent CIHL, founder and president Tim Clayden has already started working towards the 2015-2016 season.
The unyielding, relentless Clayden has a plan in progress that he believes will result in the CIHL being a four-or-five team operation in 2015-2016 while playing interlocking games with members of other junior outfits, beginning with clubs that are current members of the Michigan-based, Midwest Jr. Hockey League.
For starters, Batchewana and Espanola, along with a new team from Greater Sudbury and another from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, figure to be part of the revamped CIHL moving forward.
Founded in 2006 and having survived this long against all odds and as many naysayers, the Greater Metro Hockey League has grown into a 22-team outfit with plans to further expand for 2015-2016.
The brainchild of former Sudbury Wolves, OHL scoring star Bobby Russell and his business partner Ken Girard, the independently-operated GMHL has not only stood the test of time, it has passed with distinction.
With teams all over the various regions of Ontario and into Quebec, the GMHL has more good franchises than not and has attracted former OHL standouts and National Hockey League draft picks as reputable coaches, including 51-year old Jim Aldred and 41-year old Sylvain Cloutier.
Now driving its own bike without the use of training wheels, the GMHL landscape changes from season to season while its footprint continues to grow.
A year ago, the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League overcame the departure of Espanola to the new CIHL by adding a presence in Cochrane and Powassan and growing from eight teams to nine.
The NOJHL landscape will be altered in 2015-2016 with the Abitibi Eskimos departing Iroquois Falls after 16 years in the small northeastern Ontario town.
The Eskimos will relocate to nearby Timmins — a much-bigger and more-populated town — for the 2015-2016 campaign and while the franchise will be re-named, it will continue to be coached by iconic bench boss Paul Gagne, an ex-OHLer/ex-NHLer of considerable note.
The four-division, 24-team North American Hockey League will undergo some sort of change from this season to next.
In the six-team North Division for instance, the Michigan Warriors will not return to Flint in 2015-2016, having been tossed from the Perani Arena and Event Centre in favour of new ownership of what are currently the Plymouth Whalers. The Warriors are for sale and are reportedly headed out of Michigan.
Then there are the Pennsylvania-based Keystone Ice Miners, who have been run by the NAHL since Maribeth Hayes surrendered ownership of the franchise — formerly the Port Huron Fighting Falcons — midway through this season. The NAHL is looking for a buyer for the Keystone franchise.
PHOTO: Abitibi Eskimos president Coot Marshall, Timmins mayor Steve Black and NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca, following the recent announcement of the franchise relocation from Iroquois Falls to Timmins. (Photo by Len Gillis/Timmins Daily Press.)