Junior hockey footprints

March 6, 2015

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.)

What you think about “Junior hockey footprints”

  1. Bundle up as Levack is a COLD arena but the ice is always nice. Unless the AAA Sons are giving up their dressing room, the other dressing rooms are as small the ones in Capreol. Garson is a good arena and much closer also but there’s no appropriate dressing room for a junior team. According to Randy, that info should be out any time now.

  2. The GMHL also had two other former NHL Draft picks coaching this season Chris Beckford-Tseu (St. Louis Blues Pick, only played 1 NHL Game, but still 1 more game then the rest of us) and Al Sims who had a great career as a player in the NHL and has also coached the past 25 years at the Junior, Minor Pro and at the NHL Level (4 years at the NHL Level with Anahiem and San Jose). The GMHL has certainly continued to grow and become stronger every season since 2006. Many people on this site have pointed out in the past that Tim Clayden is visionary with the new CIHL, but I would say Bob Russell and Ken Girard are the real visionaries. They were the first league in Ontario to break a new path and not follow the rules and politics of Hockey Canada. Any News RR on what teams maybe relocated in the NOJHL or possible expansion? I can not see all 9 Teams staying in current locations (not counting the Eskimos who we know are moving). Mattawa and Blind River are two I would suspect are in financial trouble.

  3. northbay18 – there is sum talk around Mattawa that the Blackhawks are headed back to the Greater Metro League where the Voyageures played.

  4. The stands are warm in levack and the ice is one of the best. Apparently the sons only played a few games there this year. The bench is cold but if someone needs ice they can take frost off the wall behind the benches.

  5. Scotty Marshall and the Abitibi Eskimos should be dam ashamed of thems selfs for turning there backs on the great fans of I.F.

  6. What really sucks about the Eskis leaving Iroquois Falls and the Igloo is that we led the NOJ in Attendence this season….that’s right the highest attendence of all of the 9 Teams. Thanks for nothing Scott Marshall….thanks for bailing out on us.

  7. I do feel for Fans of the Eskimos that is for sure specially when it is pointed out that that Abitibi leads the league in attendance. Ouch.!! I know that the Gold Miners would luv to have the # of Fans that Abitibi have.

  8. Word is Blind River might be moving to Noelville also the group in Mattawa Is staying in the nojhl as they are going to own the team in Noelville too weather it be the old BR team or a new team.

  9. If Iroqoois Falls can lose there team then so can the Beavers. I think the end is neer and I do not think that many people care. there is hockey in Elliot Lake & many fans from Blind go there to watch the Games.

  10. NBT1975 and eskisfan1999
    you two clowns are prime examples of folks who don’t have a clue.
    were you at the town meeting last April at the curling club in IF when the eskis board had in plain site a powrpoint and screen ? Did you pay attention to what they needed to make the business work?
    I remember there were four or five things like gate receipts, corporate sponsorships, fundraising , ya, season tickets and something else I forget.

    But when they announced to town council that they were moving they said that only objective met was season tickets. The others have all failed to meet there objectives. It aint the fans’ fault thats for sure but you clowns can’t see that.
    shit, a team could have NO fans in the stands, IF it had big corporate sponsor and maybe a big invester or two to pay all the bills. guess what — tHEY dont. How do I no? becuase I went and talked to some of those directors and asked them some questions. I got no reason to not believe there answeres becuase theyre respectible people. Did any of you clowns try talking to any of them? You keep shitting on scott marshall but he doesn’t run the whole show. he may be the president (some of you think dictater) but hes just one voice on the board.

    so what are those guys supposed to do? morgage there homes so you clowns can enjoy some below-cost hockey for another year? I did some math (not meth like you clowns) and figured that if it cost 250000bucks to run that club, and they can only fundraise haf of that from local sponsors (oh ya, how many businesses are left in IF? ya, lots of sponsorship cash there eh?) , and gates, and spagetty suppers – they can’t do raffles or bingos anymore, then guess what?
    it means that theyd have to charge you jokers more for your season tickets. how much more? try over 400 bucks. you jokers ready to pay that? No? well, there’s the problem.
    you aint got any more money left in town, and you clowns dont want to pay more for your tickets so guess what- goodbye la compangnie!

    i only got a grade 12 education but i think i did something you clowns didn’t do and thats look at both sides of a story , ask questions and talk to people–////and do the math. and i only used my calculator once.
    and sorry im a bad typper.

    1. Tiger Tail you are correct that operating a Junior A Team in NOJHL is in the $250,000 range, some teams operate with less, some a bit more, but to operate a strong organization like the Eskis that’s the ball park your in. I feel for the fans and residents in I.F. who have lost a major employer and the loss of the Eski’s. Timmins is certainly a better market and has more financial potential, however if the Eski’s would of charged (Pay to Play) they could of easily survived in I.F. long term with the great fans base they have. All of the other teams in the league are charging players, so why are the Eski’s not? If your having player’s pay there own billet fee’s (8 players x $500 x 7months = $28,000 assuming that only 8 of your players require billeting, I’m sure some years it is 10 to 12 players) and bringing in an average player fee of $1500 ($1500 x 25 = $37,500) (which is low now days in Ontario when you look at the OPJHL, GMHL and CIHL) this $65,500 in additional income certainly cover costs not currently covered through revenue of ticket sales, sponsorship and fundraising. This is the reality of Junior Hockey now. You have to charge players a fee if you have any hope of breaking even or making money. The operating costs are just too high now a days. I know Scott Marshall has said a number of times he does not believe in charging players and that the Eski’s must offer this to be able to recruit good players. The Eski’s always ice a good club, but the other teams in the NOJHL that are charging fee’s are also icing good teams on an annual basis. Scott Marshall is a good hockey man and community guy despite what many people say about him on here and he is certainly not trying to get rich of hockey, but he can not go in debt to keep to the Eski’s in I.F. either. However if the board of directors would of made this change to a pay to play model like everyone else that could of survived in I.F. without a doubt.

  11. Tigertail, I will agree with you on “some” of your points, but when the team is floundering financially (not just this year) and they continue to be the only team that I know of where the players do not pay to play – then there is some responsibility on the board. I hear what you are saying about the corporate sponsorship – I personally do not believe it will be much better in Timmins. It will require a “Timmins Flavour” on the roster to garner any type of support – not just local roster fillers as we saw in I.F.

  12. nice to see some intelligent and thought out responses, people. but NB18 and hockeye, while I agree that the club should have charged something to players in past years even this one, I am not convinced that they can just charge and still draw quality players.
    I say this because after maybe blind river (no offense meant) Iroquois falls probably has the least to offer to a player of all teams in the NO; sure, great arena, but what else? a timmies, and…? even Cochrane in my opinion has more to offer – not much but still more. and KL. when players are not in school, not playing or working out there is f-a for them to do.

    player going to pay 1500$ as you suggest you know what he says “phoque it just going to pay a bit more and go play Sud, Soo, even powassan not far commute from the Bay, or farther down south. If eskis couldn’t draw a better roster not charging for players, lets only imagine what they would have got if theydid have charge players.

    and I did ask some this question to guys on club I talk to and they say said ya it would have helped but now with economy down the shitter – my words that last part but I read between lines- even that little bit say 1500$ a player is not enough because still short.
    maybe if some big mine like primero or sant Andrews or whatever had stepped up and said here you go 25 grand or more for next few years like I heard in KL, it coulda worked.
    anyway what me say is that too little too late. and I don’t think that anyone else trying it a jr a club in IF will be able to do much better. sorry.

  13. Hey hockeye,
    what you mean by -roster fillers-? sounds like to me you mean that some IF players didn’t deserve to be on the team? or am I misconscrewing your words?

  14. Carl, You are absolutely right. I am not here to criticize anyone, but there were a couple, and maybe even others (not from I.F.) that would likely not play Jr. A on another top 6 team in the league. Speaks well to your point of not being able to draw players from other places.

  15. wow hockeye nice name by the way thats a low blow about eskis players. if youre takling this year then its kind of obvious who those players are you are reffring to . hope they dont read this blog sorry RR you know what i mean

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