July 12, 2014

This is a tale of two Ontario-based junior A hockey leagues.

One is the established Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, which was formed in 1978.

The other is the new Canadian International Hockey League, which takes to the ice for the first time this 2014-2015 season.

The NOJHL has nine teams, all based in northern Ontario.

The CIHL has eight teams, four from northern Ontario and four from the south-central area of the province.

The NOJHL is sanctioned by Hockey Canada.

The CIHL is sanctioned by the United Hockey Union, under the umbrella of the Amateur Athletic Union.

Both leagues are competing for many of the same players but while the NOJHL has import limitations, the CIHL treats Canadians and Americans as one and allows all teams the use of up to 12 Europeans.

Now to the hypothetical question.

With options to play in both leagues, which one does a player choose?

It says here it depends on the individual player, his age, the roster opportunities that exist — and the team or teams in question.

To be sure, the reputation of a team or its ownership, its location and visibility and who the coach is are all major factors worth considering when a player (and his parents) are making a decision where to play junior hockey, in this case the NOJHL or the CIHL.

From the head-coaching end, both leagues have teams led by reputable individuals who understand the game — and have played it at the Ontario Hockey League level and beyond.

First, the NOJHL.

Veteran Abitibi Eskimos coach Paul Gagne was an OHL scoring star who went on to play in 390 National Hockey League games. Gagne was a first-round pick to both the OHL and NHL.

Soo Thunderbirds coach Jordan Smith was a top OHL defenceman and a second-round pick of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks who was destined for a career in the NHL before suffering a serious eye injury at age 20 that ended those hopes.

Veteran Blind River Beavers coach Don Gagnon has the distinction of playing at both the OHL and the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association levels. Gagnon has also worked as an OHL scout.

And Sudbury Nickel Barons coach Jason Young was a solid OHL forward who went on to play at the minor and European-pro levels. Young also has coaching experience as an OHL assistant.

The new CIHL is not without reputable coaches of its own.

Batchewana Attack coach Denny Lambert played in the OHL before grinding it out as an NHL tough guy for 504 games. Lambert was never drafted into the OHL or the NHL but defied the odds to play and stay in both. He has also coached in the OHL for eight seasons, five as an assistant and three as the head guy.

Veteran Espanola Rivermen coach Tom McCarthy was a first-round pick to both the OHL and the NHL. McCarthy, who once scored 69 goals in a single OHL season, went on to play in 528 NHL games.

Milton Battle Arts Cobras coach Dennis Maruk was an OHL scoring sensation before moving up to play in 922 NHL games, once scoring 60 goals in a single season.

And Sudbury Royals coach Trevor Blanchard played at the OHL, Canadian University and European-pro levels. Blanchard has also coached in the NOJHL and scouted in the OHL.

Let it be said that there are other coaches from both leagues who may not have played in the OHL or NHL but still carry good reputations in the hockey world.

Coaching aside, when trying to choose between one team or another and one league or another, there is the cost factor of pay-to-play to consider plus tangibles and intangibles such as player promotion, player development, showcase tournaments and educational opportunities.

Words to the wise: do your own research, listen to people who you trust and make a decision based on who and what you know.

What you think about “NOJHL or CIHL?”

  1. agree a hundred per cent as to this being another great artcle by RR. A nother example of what seperates RR between those writers who do not have a friggin clue what they are tallking about IMHO.

  2. Great write up Randy,

    Very true both leagues have some great coaches who have great resumes, being from just outside of north bay and my son having played in the GNML for 3 years, we are slowing leaning towards the CIHL a little more now, for my son to be coached by dennis maruk, tom mccarthy or denny lambert is very intriguing and also getting to play some games in southern ontario areas is another intriguing thing, as we have played hockey in the north for 12 years now, also the showcases some of those teams are attending in traverse city and detroit is nice also.

  3. By far the best article written about both of these organizations . No unnecessary bashing of either party , just the facts spelled out in a clear and concise manner . Do your homework and pick the best fit for your situation .

  4. What about the GMHL? Unsanctioned, but has been playing within the geographic footprint of both of these leagues as well… Young men from the north and all over have a lot of thinking to do about where to pursue the next steps of their hockey lives for sure…

  5. Randy, your summary is a good starting point for an analysis of the various options for a family to consider for their son’s hockey path. In Northern Ontario, we have three options at the ‘tier two’ junior A hockey level.
    1. Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL)– Canadian sanctioned
    2. Canadian International Hockey League (CIHL)– United States Sanctioned
    3. Greater Metro Junior Hockey League (GMHL)–Unsanctioned
    Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. And each offers a unique junior hockey experience. Folks, do your homework and select the one that matches your specific goals. Good luck.

  6. Hmm voodoos steal another north bay boy. What is the older ibbotson doing? Staying with the blackhawks? Word arpund town its a battle on and off th e ice with both teams. THE VOODOS WONT STAND A CHANCE AGAINST THE HAWKS ! Dawson will crack under the pressure

    1. Hey Mattawan fan I think you have fallen off a mountain.
      Do you really think that a team with ties to an OHL team will fail to a team that is run like a circus?
      Seems maybe you are in some way related to the Mattawa team. The Mattawa run team with its current group will be lucky to last a season with the Chris Dawson run Voodoo team in the North Bay area. The class act Dawson made the right move by leaving a shady and shakey team in my opinion.

    2. Ya okay I am sure that Dawson is shaking his boots at the thoughts of Dave, Marsel and the Mattawa circus. The only thing Mattawa is missing is Peachy hahahahahahaha.

  7. Pretty Crazy stuff NOJHL CIHL and GMHL lot’s of repeatable leagues fighting it out for these young man to improve there games in there leagues ! I think we are all in for some interesting hockey games this fall and winter ! 3 leagues fighting it out for the best hockey talent around the globe. Should be fun to see how it all unfolds dudes !

  8. A fair and balanced Column! Great work RR as you continue to show how you are Head and Shoulders over all the other Writer’s.

  9. Some players will want to play for a chance at a National Championship and only one of the three leagues gives that opportunity.

  10. Fanman: is there not a championship game that the CIHL champion will play against the winner of the other leagues in the UHU-AAU? Yes there is. So I guess this would be an international championship — would it not?

  11. Rink in Matawa so cold I freez my pekker off befor game even start

  12. Really that’s all you have. Well both and also
    the UHU championship will be held down the
    road from the frozen four so I would imagine
    there would be some scouting exposure.

  13. As a Twin Soo Junior “A” hockey Fan I look forward to following Coach Lambert and the Soo Batchewanna Attack at the old Rankin. I watched many a game there in the day of Coach Becanic & the Soo Indians.
    Best of Luck to Coach Lambert from a long time fan of you.

  14. well well: Let’s just say I got a lot more than you’ll ever know. Good luck with your league…you’re going to need it.

  15. I would be willing to doubt that very much. The league is fine and so far looks to be in better shape than well the other guys.

  16. I agree with you Well Well, Fan man is a classic example why all the myths and stretched truths are being spread around about this new league. Please people educate yourselves before you believe jack wagons wagging their tongues without any clue what they are talking about. All of that is my own humble opinion of course!!!! Thanks Randy for being such a credible reporter…..keep up the good work, the junior hockey world needs a voice of reason like yours.

  17. What myths and stretched truths have been tossed out by Fanman ? I
    believe he’s entitled to his opinion just as everybody else who posts here . Opinions aren’t necessarily facts or the entire truth they are one persons interpretation of the situation .

  18. Well Well:
    When I comment I support my opinion with facts that I research . I never say anybody has to agree with me , I never call anybody out concerning their character or loyalties nor do I insult people who disagree with me . I ask for supporting evidence so can judge for myself what is happening . If I counter your opinion with facts that call it’s validity into question it’s called a debate and I am always open to a respectful exchange of facts or opinions to prove I am wrong . I have wished the CIHL good luck and their followers as well . I’m not sure what your problem is with me or the various governing bodies of hockey because you never really say exactly what your issues are . I will add that thanks to all the negativity that exists at this time I have chosen to get back into the sport and will be working with the KL Gold Miners of the NOJHL for the upcoming season . Guess that will make me a bad guy and worthy of ridicule but it doesn’t really matter . Have a great day and enjoy your hockey this winter , I know I will .

  19. Good luck with the Gold Miners they have a well run program. My issues lie with the way the NOJHL is run and the favortism towards teams. You can say it does not exist but I have had the chance to talk a former ref in the league and it does exist. I do think the hockey people that run the governing bodies like Hockey Canada and NOHA/NOJHL need to get with the times. They are falling way behind with their management tactics. A lot of good people have left hockey as a result. I do feel and others have said it that the North should be a junior B program so that the smaller market teams can get mostly local players and draw bigger crowds. The GOJHL (who tried to become Jr A this year) is a prime example of a very good Jr B league. It has been said to be one of the top 10 development leagues in North America. This being said I feel that even though you can add teams does not mean they are stable teams. Rough cost to run a Jr A team has got to be close to $300,000.00 a season. In the north with decreasing sponsorship this is hard.
    The CIHL is developing a profit sharing program to help all teams survive so things like debt left in Elliot Lake don’t happen. Will things be all roses,of course not but the business plan is a better one than the NOJHL has.
    As for fanman he can ride your coat tails if he wants to. So Mike, does this help sir?

  20. Well Well ,

    Thank you for the sentiment , this is my first go around with a junior team so it could be interesting . Can’t comment on your favoritism assertion because I have only seen games in Iroquois Falls , Kirkland and North Bay . It is something I will pay attention to over the course of the season . I agree with you that hockey’s governing bodies have issues and they need a shake up . I will be watching how new Hockey Canada president Tom Renney approaches things once he’s in power . I know of many people who have left the hockey world as well but they all have their reasons and some are as you say fed up with the direction the game has taken . Yes downgrading to junior B would be an option for the NOJ but I don’t think there are enough local players to ice a full complement of teams so there will always have to be players brought in to fill rosters in the smaller markets . If it did happen though , the GOJ would be a good example to follow . Strong franchises and good development numbers ,

    I agree that the average budget for a junior team in the north is close to 300 K and with diminishing population and fewer businesses it is difficult to make ends meet . It takes a lot of work and that’s why player fees are the reality for most junior programs in Canada these days . Can’t comment on the debt in Elliot Lake because there are varying reports of what is owed but that being said this is not the first time a team left a town owing money . It has been more common the last few years and in many different leagues . As for the CIHL , I believe it will find a place and could flourish with consistent strong leadership . There will however be ups and downs . gain I have little inside knowledge of how the league will run and profit sharing is an interesting concept and would be a great way to get everybody stable . Still you will need at least half the teams to turn a profit or there may not be enough to go around . In business change can be good and options are good for the customer , in this case the players . As with any business the ones that provide the best service and value will rule the marketplace . As for Fanman , don’t know who he is , I was wondering what he had said to upset people that’s all . Have a good day .

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