RR’s rumour mill

February 6, 2015

Today’s tour of the mill begins on the Ontario Hockey League coaching circuit and shifts to state-of-the-franchise talk within the North American Hockey League, Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League and the Canadian International Hockey League.


Having already fired head coach Paul Fixter last month and replaced him with associate David Matsos on an interim basis, the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves may be looking to clean house in 2014-2015.

If Matsos does not carry on as head coach beyond this season, there will be no shortage of qualified candidates applying for the Wolves job.

One name that is often mentioned as a candidate whenever a head-coaching position becomes available in the OHL is Belleville Bulls assistant Jake Grimes.

The 42-year old Grimes, who spent his three-year OHL playing career in Belleville, is now in his 11th season as an assistant coach with the Bulls. Of note, he applied for the Sudbury head-coaching job a year ago but was passed over in favour of the since-fired Fixter.

Another name that has been linked to the Wolves — either as a head coach or top assistant — is Moe Mantha, who is currently the coach-general manager of the NAHL’s Michigan Warriors.

The 54-year old Mantha has taken the Flint-based Warriors to the NAHL’s championship tournament in two of the four seasons of the team’s existence.

But with the Warriors franchise for sale — and being replaced in Flint effective the 2014-2015 season by the relocated OHL Plymouth Whalers franchise — Mantha will be a coaching free agent.

To be sure, Mantha has strong OHL ties, having played for the erstwhile Toronto Marlboros and later coached the Saginaw Spirit and Windsor Spitfires in between more than 650 games as a National Hockey League defenceman.

He is also no stranger to northern Ontario, having grown up and played minor hockey in Sturgeon Falls.

Regarded as a strong development coach with an honest, old-school personality, Mantha also has minor-pro coaching experience in the American Hockey League.


* The Keystone Ice Miners could be one and done in the NAHL.

Having relocated to Connellsville, Pennsylvania from Port Huron, Michigan during the off-season, the Ice Miners are currently being operated by the NAHL after owner Maribeth Hayes voluntarily surrendered the franchise to the league in December.

The Ice Miners are near the bottom of the attendance rung in the 24-team NAHL, are for sale and rumoured to be headed out of Connellsville after just one season.

A possible destination for the Ice Miners could be a return to Jamestown, N.Y. where the Ironmen had an NAHL team for two seasons before going dormant. But under new, local ownership, Jamestown is now home to a team in the North American 3 Hockey League called the Southern Tier Xpress. The Xpress leads the 31-team NA3HL with an average attendance of more than 1,000 per game.

* Abitibi Eskimos of the NOJHL are said to be leaving Iroquois Falls at the end of this 2014-2015 season and moving to nearby Timmins effective the 2015-2016 campaign.

A move from small-town Iroquois Falls to medium-market Timmins has been talked about for a number of years now.

Should the NOJHL move from Iroquois Falls to Timmins, long-time coach Paul Gagne will likely be part of the transfer. A former first-round pick to both the OHL and the NHL, the 53-year old Gagne is an Iroquois Falls native who resides in Timmins.


It’s been a tough baptism of fire for the new CIHL and founder and president Tim Clayden readily takes the blame for what has ailed the first-year junior league.

After starting out with eight teams, the CIHL is down to two but Clayden said the league will “definitely” return in 2015-2016.

“Mistakes have been made and I take full responsibility,” Clayden said evenly.

The 54-year old Clayden, who has been involved in junior hockey as an owner, manager and coach for most of his adult life, said he will be satisfied with a “five-or-six-team league” in 2015-2016.

According to Clayden, the CIHL will have a northern Ontario presence that includes the Batchewana Attack, Espanola Rivermen and a new entry in Sudbury as well as teams in northern Michigan.

Clayden said he is hopeful that the CIHL will play regular interlocking games with teams from the Midwest Jr. Hockey League in 2015-2016.

At present, the MWJHL is made up of six Michigan-based teams and one from Illinois.

Teams from the Great Lakes State are the Soo Firehawks, Traverse City Hounds, Alpena Flyers, Detroit Fighting Irish, Motor City Monarchs and Michigan Ice Dogs. The Decatur Blaze is based in Illinois.

Scott Gardiner, a former OHL scoring star with the Belleville Bulls, serves as commissioner of the MWJHL. The 50-year old Gardiner has confirmed that he has had “numerous informal talks” with Clayden about an interlocking schedule with the CIHL in 2015-2016.

Of note, the MWJHL’s Fighting Irish is hosting a showcase tournament this weekend that includes Motor City as well as Batchewana and Espanola of the CIHL and the independent Kalkaska Rhinos.

What you think about “RR’s rumour mill”

  1. At least T. Clayden is being realistic with expectations of a 5 or 6 team league. The only “iffy” plan is having a team in Sudbury. The Royals were a disaster on every front (league, owners, coaching, player recruitment) but also location was a problem. Even with good ownership, this team never had a chance in Capreol. St-Charles – not much better although there was more community support despite the train wreck that the team (s) became. Anyways, St-Charles is not an option anymore for T. Clayden.
    Where else in Sudbury? The Barons draw 100 or so and most of those people are parents and friends and they’re in an established Jr A league. Personally, in my opinion, a CIHL level team cannot thrive in Sudbury but could in a place like Sturgeon Falls…. maybe.

  2. Robbie … how about putting a team in Walden or Rayside or Levack? Altho I see what you mean attendance is not as important as the old days as players pay to play can bring in $80 K alone.

  3. Cassio – Those places are home to AAA teams who are favoured over a new team from a new league, especially after what happened this year between the city, the Royals and the league. I’m not sure the city would even deal with the CIHL (in my opinion). A real Junior A team is not what was going on in Capreol in every sense. They’ve got it going in Espanola because the infrastructure was there from the previous season and from ownership. I honestly cannot see one place in Greater Sudbury where such a team could survive. Where would they even get the players? Not their fault, but I don’t think there was one real Junior player playing for the Royals. Not one, in my opinion.

  4. Any word on future of the NAHL Michigan Warriors?
    Previous rumors of relocating to Troy, Lansing, Ann Arbor or will they fold?

  5. I never did understand why an NAHL team was placed in tiny Connellsville PA. If they would have marketed the team throughout south western Pennsylyvania they may have had a chance to survive. Instead, the owner chose to operate on a shoestring budget. I agree with you that Jamestown NY deserves another shot at the NAHL. Hopefully their current ownership group steps up and takes a chance.

    Any word on where Michigan may move to? For some odd reason it now appears that Port Huron prefers the low minor league FHL over another NAHL team. Whatever happens, I’m hoping that Johnstown and Soo will remain in the same division. I enjoy their rivalry.

  6. Sudbury is a really tough sell for CIHL as many of the arenas don’t have the dressing room and other facilities for a proper Junior A team. Walden is the worst so sorry Mason D. You also have to get the proper ice time away form minor hockey and figure skating and that ain’t going to happen anywhere except Capreol or maybe Levack. Best to go to Massey and be close to Espanola to save money. Another option is Thessalon.

    No matter where, still going to have a peach of a time getting true JR A players not leftover from NOJHL.

  7. The Kalkaska Rhinos have left the CIHL… to join another league they released a statement on another website looks like 2 teams left now Randy whats going to happen?

  8. I don’t want to pile on here but maybe the plug should be pulled in the CIHL, re-group and try again next season.

  9. Pretty disappointing of the Kalkaska ownership… When their first league imploded before liftoff, the CIHL gave them a home and a regular schedule for their boys to play in. When their regular goalie got hurt last weekend (yes, against Espanola), the Rivermen lent them a goalie to complete their road trip in Batchewana. The MWJHL would have been a logical home, but they would not allow them in for this season. TC Hounds have tried to torpedo them since coming to Kalkaska. Wonder what league they hope to join? And we`re well into February now, why wouldn`t you finish out the 5-6 games you had left on the schedule? Why are you taking those games away from their kids, the opponent`s players, fans, refs, arenas, everything? I hope an explanation comes forward… And it can`t be that the league was cut down. the only team that left since they joined was Sudbury. They joined after the southern teams had split. But I have major concerns for next year, I hope we have junior hockey in Espanola to support.

    1. Brian P,

      The CIHL will have a major presence in Espanola again next season, of that I am quite sure. I also know of a Michigan-based owner who is joining the CIHL next season. When that is announced, you will be impressed, as will others.

  10. Thanks RR, It`s been a long season for any fan. Kalkaska kind of feels like a low blow, I can imagine what Mr. Clayden is thinking. As long as we have a team I`ll be bringing my family out to support it.

  11. Are you kidding me. If this rumour is correct there are only two teams left in this league. What a shipwreck. Got to feel for the kids and the fans. Espanola is a good hockey town and definitely will support junior hockey. They belong in the nojhl. There were rumours posted here about a week or so ago stating that nojhl was looking to get espanola back in their league. Looks like the opportune time if you ask me. Mr. Clayden may attempt to revive this league next year but i think he is going to have a hard time selling this league to good junior hockey players and their parents. Too bad because from what i have heard the Batchewana team is well run . Really have to feel for the kids on this team especially the ones in the last year of junior. Not a good way to finish.

  12. Where do you get your info? “TC Hounds have tried to torpedo them since coming to Kalkaska.” This guy looks and acts like a runaway freight train. Maybe, just maybe someone had the foresight to see this coming.

  13. There was an article not that long ago on another site detailing the lengths that the Traverse City management has gone to to pressure the Kalkaska team. It now appears to be pulled, but it spoke of demands of payment for territorial rights, threatening officials not to work CIHL games, and chosing not to take part in the Fundraiser Tourney hosted by Kalkaska (which is absolutely their right).

  14. I compare my way, you compare your way…mmm… You know what Randy, I think right now , I like the way I compare a little bit better. I just wonder how long Lambert is going to hang around or will he make the decision to go down with the ship along with TC. Oh well, on a positive note, neither of the remaining teams can finish worst than second!

    1. I sign my real name, jdl, you don’t. I think I like my way better. Meantime, keep your balls in your purse, where they belong.

  15. Randy I love your blog and love anyone who takes a chance like TC BUT WILL you guys laugh last? It’s a long shot…

  16. Keystone Ice Miners seem to have excellent coaching and player assets. Properly marketed the Connellsville location could work. The town is small but there is a larger surrounding area. I really would not be surprised to see a buyer for this franchise who is willing to make a better effort in the community. I think you cannot expect to be an instance success and a new owner will be able to build on the enthusiasm the team has created this season

  17. Brian P- I’m glad you saw the article involving TC & Kalkaska because, as you point out, it’s gone.

    35 minutes before Powasan/Mattawa on line.

  18. Marcel is probably one of the biggest bullshitters out there .. every forum I read him boosting himself or writing dumb shit.

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