Wicked winds of change

March 11, 2015

What a difference a few days can make.

The winds of change that blew through Espanola on Monday swept south of the border into Michigan on Tuesday and affected several junior hockey leagues in the process.

The terse press release issued by the Town of Espanola that it was severing its relationship with the Espanola Rivermen of the Canadian International Hockey League despite a signed lease agreement that extends to 2017 is what started the storm.

Then came the blockbuster that the entire seven-team Midwest Jr. Hockey League was disbanding to join the United States Premier Hockey League effective the 2015-2016 season.

Both announcements cast a shadow of doubt on the future of the fledgling CIHL, which began the 2014-2015 season with eight teams and finished it with two.

At any rate, let’s start with Espanola, which plans to again be home to a Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League franchise in 2015-2016 after leaving it for the CIHL in 2014-2015.

This much I know: NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca has managed to recruit a new ownership group that intends to ice a team in Espanola for the 2015-2016 season.

I can also relay that the Township of Sables-Spanish Rivers has extended a written overture to the CIHL Rivermen to play out of Massey Arena in 2015-2016.

So let’s say the Rivermen move to Massey, the Batchewana Attack returns for a second season and the CIHL uses its signed agreement with the City of Greater Sudbury to operate a team out of Levack for the 2015-2016 season.

That would give the CIHL three teams — one short of what president Tim Clayden said he needs for the league to return in 2015-2016.

Ergo, unless the Blind River Beavers leave the NOJHL for the CIHL or Clayden manages to secure a fourth franchise elsewhere in northern Ontario or into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the new junior league is facing dormancy.

To be sure, the CIHL was greatly affected by the MWJHL’s decision to join the USPHL. The CIHL and a couple of MWJHL teams had verbally agreed to play interlocking games in 2015-2016 but that proposed arrangement has become unlikely.

What we have now is Espanola planning on a return to the NOJHL under new ownership in 2015-2016 and the CIHL hanging in there, at least for now.

What you think about “Wicked winds of change”

  1. This really blows .. we were looking forward to playing the Teams from Canada..thats what we were told. What in the Hell happened ??? !!!

  2. Massey-Sables-Spanish River-Webbwood-Walford will support the Rivermen come on Rivermen we would love to have your team in our beautifull little Town Ship!

  3. wow this is just like the young and the restless crazy stuff eh, should be an interesting few weeks until we all get the final word on what will happen to the CIHL ? A song comes to mind, should I stay or should I go ? ? ? I guess we will see.

  4. If the Beavers were to join this CIHL they mite actually break even financial.
    Blind River to Massey is only 35-40 miles.
    Blind River to Sudbury is only 85-90 miles.
    Blind River to Sault is only 80-85 miles.
    This helps out in a big way with travel/bus cost’s.

  5. The MWJHL decision was made during a phone confrence to join the USPHL…It is more likely the City of Espanola (or their minions) had an inside track regarding that decision/information and pulled the “contract” from the Rivermen, thus the City’s anouncement on Monday.

  6. Mr. Espo, the league sucked, but we have maybe a 1 in 100 chance that this new franchise will bring half of what the Rivermen did in this town for the community. Sometimes it’s about more than just hockey.

    1. Agreed BrianP. But there is a chance they will continue what the Rivermen started.The rivermen would do very well in Massey. It is a win/win situation as long as Massey puts up nets and glass as Espy has.

      1. Alot of talk around the Town today of the possability of getting our very own Junior team.
        This is very erxciting.

    2. Just the thought of having a Jr Team for the Predators to move up to from Youth hockey has everbody talking . Please Mr. Clayton – accept our Invitation!

  7. For the good of the franchise’s maybe Batchewana and the Rivermen just need to say goodbye to the CIHL and join the GMHL.

    1. Both Teams are located in areas that make no geographical sense for the GMHL. It would increase all other teams travel costs. One of the reasons the GMHL has worked so well over the past few years is because of reduced travel costs, while still giving every team the opportunity to play 21 other teams. The GMHL was in the far north before, but I don’t see them going back again unless it’s with 3 or 4 teams in the same area.

  8. Brian P.

    How do you figure??????

    You have no idea who the ownership is ans what they are going to do for the community. I’m sure with Espanola being such a close community the ownership will do exactly what it needs to do to be welcomed and accepted by the members of the community.

    1. I tend to agree with For the Love of Puck…

      All junior teams for the most part HAVE to show themselves in public events, support local businesses, help out around the community..whatever it takes.

      It’s how you build fan support and grow your franchise so that you continue to fill the building.

      If you don’t, what ends up happening is they become like the Espanola Kings and literally fall apart at the seams and fold within years.

      The Rivermen players leave a wonderful legacy on the community of Espanola. The ownership though, that’s 50/50.

  9. My son was traded to an NOJHL team this year, and was uneasy about reporting. Some close friends said the league has improved tremendously the last three years. He’s loved every minute, especially the passion of northern communities. He was extremely impressed with SSM coaching during Central Canada Cup, how they built cohesion and a system in such a short time. All to say Espanola should rejoin, and Blind River should rebuild! And Mr, Mazzuca deserves some credit under difficult circumstances. Lord knows leaders take the blame when things go badly, why not the credit when things improve?

  10. It will be a nice story if the folks over in the Massey Area get there own team. Its is such a nice area over there, nice Community Center where the rink is.

    1. If they’re smart..they talk with the new owners of Espanola’s team and ask for a specific night of the week to play on. Say Saturday Night in Massey and Friday nights in Espanola?

      I’m sure hockey fans in Espanola would make the short 20 minute drive to watch some CIHL hockey on a Saturday Night or Sunday Aftnenoon, just like Massey folks making the 20 minute trek to watch NOJHL hockey on a Friday night.

      The area goes from having no teams to having two teams in a matter of days. Can’t ask for more.

      I’m just hopeful the ownership group possibly coming into Espanola has a similar foundation and system the last owners had. Despite what I think of his attitude towards Hockey Canada and the NOJHL, Clayden has a wonderful program he offers to his student athletes.

  11. Puck, I’ve lived here for a long time, and followed junior hockey for a very long time. Four teams, five owners, three leagues in this town in my time. My “Favorites” in my web browser has the websites for six Junior hockey leagues that I follow on a daily basis. I am very confident in saying there are no other teams that go to the extent that the Rivermen have to be a part of the community. This franchise will be a large loss off the ice to the town and a huge gain for someone else. People have short memories for the teams that have come and gone before the Rivermen and for the many years the town did not even have a team. Might we hit the hockey lottery twice? It’s possible, but I’m not naïve enough to just jump on board and suggest everything will be exactly the same.

    1. The teams in the NOJ are now so in tuned with the community you will not have a problem TRUST ME. If this new team comes in and is basically a burden to the community IE no community support/involvement then I will gladly come on this page and eat my words.

      If you go into the new season with the mindset that this team is going to be an awful change for the town of Espanola then, as the south park ski meme states, “You’re gonna have a bad time”

  12. What I am hearing the Rivermen did in the community is simply the “model for community engagement” for all junior programs to be successful. It happens all over this province and country. If it isn’t in your community then there is a problem!

  13. There have been multiple junior teams in Espanola including the GMHL kings that have not supported the community. The Kings came in and stepped all over minor hockey then left owing money to the town. The Rivermen came in from day one and made theselves available to the whole community. For this we are greatful

  14. let’s hope that those who are responsible for bringing in a new owner into Espanola have done their due diligence……

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