Tuneup Tuesday

January 27, 2015

If rumours do make the junior hockey world go around then the old mill is really turning.

Rampant rumours are running through the (in alphabetical order) Canadian International Hockey League, Midwest Jr. Hockey League, North American Hockey League and Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.


Rumours of the folding of the first-year league are greatly exaggerated, according to founder and president Tim Clayden.

While the CIHL is down to three teams — Batchewana Attack, Espanola Rivermen and Kalkaska Rhinos — Clayden said he expects to be a six-member league in 2015-2016.

Do not underestimate Clayden.

For one, he is relentless and does not know the meaning of the word quit.

In a suitable scenario, the CIHL will be a five-to-seven team league in 2015-2016 with a presence in northern Ontario and northern Michigan.

To be sure, Clayden is well-connected south of the northern Ontario-northern Michigan border.


Six of its seven teams are based in Michigan with the Decatur Blaze being the outsider from Illinois.

Geographically, three of the Michigan teams are from the Metro Detroit area (Detroit Fighting Irish, Motor City Monarchs and Michigan Ice Dogs) and the other three are from up north (Soo Firehawks, Traverse City Hounds and Alpena Flyers.)

There are those who are suggesting the MWJHL will split up after this season just as there is a self-serving faction that is desperately trying to divide the owners of the six Michigan-based entries.

While there may not be perfect harmony within the MWJHL there are some good owners, managers and coaches among the Michigan teams — and that is a positive worth noting.


With the Michigan Warriors being ousted from Perani Arena in Flint after this season to make room for the transplanted Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, there is cause for concern regarding the NAHL footprint in the Great Lakes State.

When the Soo Eagles left the NOJHL in 2012, they became one of four Michigan-based teams in the NAHL’s North Division.

But first the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings folded, then the Port Huron Fighting Falcons departed for Pennsylvania and now the Flint-based Warriors will be homeless after this season with the franchise up for sale.

So where does that leave the Soo?

I am not going to speak for Eagles coach-general manager Bruno Bragagnolo or primary owner Ron Lavin but I cannot see them leaving the Michigan Soo.

Now in their fifth season of operating the Eagles (two in the NOJHL, three in the NAHL), Bragagnolo and Lavin have built the franchise into a highly-respectable and reputable operation with good people assisting as dependable and committed volunteers.

I just can’t see Bragagnolo and Lavin turning their backs on the Michigan Soo. No way.


Ruled by an ambitious, arrogant commissioner, the NOJHL has grown to nine teams under the watch of the almighty Robert Mazzuca.

Rumour has Mazzuca pushing for expansion and trying to get into territory currently occupied by the Greater Metro Jr. Hockey League, a non-sanctioned outfit that refuses to go away.

The GMJHL was formed in 2006 by Bobby Russell, a former OHL scoring star with the Sudbury Wolves. Few thought the GMJHL would last long but here it is almost nine years later and it is still going strong — and as a nemesis to Mazzuca and the NOJHL.

To another rumour — will the Mattawa Blackhawks leave the NOJHL after one season to return to the GMJHL?

Let the chess match begin.

What you think about “Tuneup Tuesday”

  1. if the only battle between Mazzuca and Russell is if Mattawa stays in the nojha or a return to the gmhl it will be a first round knockout — with Mazzuca getting knocked out.
    There is no way Mattawa can support the over inflated cost to run a nojha team, it is being proved right now if they don’t get 250 plus fans it’s a losing cause. On the other hand Mattawa is a good hockey town but if you get on the wrong side the locals no one can survive , I seen it first hand.

  2. I hope Clayden is able to choose decent owners for his new teams next year. Unbelievable that 7 out of the 9 original owners turned out to be incompetent, in my opinion.

    All four Southern team owners were incompetent, again, in my opinion. St-Charles ownership was worse, again in my opinion.

    Sudbury was a joke from the start. I find it incredible that anyone thought Beals had a clue or the funds to run a team.

    For the nojhl, 9 teams started and 9 teams will finish the year. BR is in trouble but have been around so long and will survive. Mattawa seems better on and off the ice since the change in ownership. Powassan is doing well. Eliot Lake is doing better. KL is a model franchise. Cochrane (like the owner or not) is doing well. Abitibi … lets hope they make it in IF or Timmins. Soo – great team. Sudbury – could be a force with adequate ownership and actual practices. It seems doom and gloom for the nojhl but hopefully all 9 teams finish the year and they have at least 8 to start next year.

  3. Randy,

    do you have any word on what might happen with the Traverse City Hounds next season? There has been talk of change in regards to the league they will operate under for next season.

  4. The Irish are definitely “friends of the CIHL“, and would love to see them play CIHL teams on a regular basis. They would definitely need other Michigan travel partners to make it work though, travel would likely be a concern. Excited to see how the teams do at the Shamrock Showdown. Is there a current list of teams playing? Espanola, Batchewana, Kalkaska, the Irish, and ?

  5. Isn’t the feud or “nemesis” of Mazzuca and the NOJHL Tim Clayden? What does Russell have anything do with that? Clayden was the one saying ‘We have the North on the Run’ and trying to take teams from the league to his.

    Where is the evidence of a feud with Mazzuca and Russell?

    1. Nelson,

      I have a few questions for you as well.

      Are you with the WUHL? If so, how are things going?

      Just curious.

  6. In other news the Soo Eagles are staying in the NAHL, Bruno and Ron Lavin have told reputable people this, very strong group. Also I am told NOJHL is now at 11 with the Blind River but their fate is yet to be determined as for Mattawa the league apparently ceased the lease because of the former owners bankruptcy.

    The way I see it, the problem Mr. Mazzuca has is he told other NOJHL owners is that there was 45k in debt with the Beauchamp owner when in reality it was a 7k remaining bus bill and a The new jerseys were on a payment plan. So in reality TPA sports purchased a NOJHL team for 23k when elliot Lake and Powassan bought in for 45k on top of all the additional cards the NOHA awarded double cards for Mattawa. Robert need to make sure his next move is a good one or he could be out. (My opinion.)

    1. For the record, I do not believe anyone said it was you, Joseph.

      Surely there are many who answer to “Joe K” in the world, hockey and otherwise.

      But I do thank you for your clarification. Much appreciated.



  7. In regards to the rumour of the NOJHL trying to move into GMHL territory, where are the rumoured locations? Temang? Sturgeon Falls? Almaguin? Parry Sound? Bracebridge?

  8. Just keeping the record clear, I don’t want any confusion as many use that abridged version of my name to save time on spelling lol

  9. freaking hockey rumors sometimes man, they drive me up the wall ! Now with my city hosting the Dudley Hewitt Cup next year lets hope we still have a very strong NOJHL for us loyal fans to enjoy, O Mr. Russon any chance of another American team to join our great league anytime soon ? thanks. I still miss them Soo eagles they were always fun and fast skating teams to watch !

  10. Hey Barons fan I don’t know if the NOJHL can have American teams any more, not sure I could be wrong. Also with Hockey Canada rumoured to be cutting import player numbers back to possibly none then that would mean the team might not be able to play.

  11. I can’t really see a team from the sault wanting to join especially with the NAHL being there. You never know but I can’t see that as being beneficial to Sault,MI and now a days with the american game catching up and eventually surpassing us going to Canada does not have the same allure to some.

  12. The “import” amount will drop to five, but under new hockey canada rules and OHF rules there is a “residency” application for players junior ages living with family or attending school in Canada not making them a import, hockey canada beloved this will keep some 17 year olds in midget longer and help keep midget hockey alive

  13. Thanks for that explanation toughtimes. Sounds like there is back door clause to allow imports,so kids can enroll in high school really and play making them non imports. Is there a sub section in there saying they would have to enroll in so many classes to be a full time student.

  14. Mason the goal is for 18-20 year olds who can enrol in online collage corses nothing to do with highschool aged kids remember the goal is to keep players in Canada and the USA playing midget hockey longer, also Europeans play in the GTHL as Canadians all the time but they are full time students. This also is designed to hinder competing leagues in Canada

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