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.