CIHL plans ahead to 2015-2016

March 2, 2015

CBC Radio Sudbury journalist Mathieu Gohier called me the other day, wanting to know my thoughts on the future of the fledgling Canadian International Hockey League.

Gohier and I talked at length about the CIHL, which experienced its share of struggles as a first-year junior league this 2014-2015 season.

As I told Gohier, I expect the CIHL to return in 2015-2016 despite finishing the 2014-2015 season with just two teams, the Batchewana Attack and the Espanola Rivermen.

As someone who tries to see the glass half-full instead of half-empty, I do see the CIHL forging ahead in 2015-2016 as a four-or-five team loop that would play an interlocking schedule with the Michigan-based Midwest Jr. Hockey League — and perhaps a few games with northern teams from the independent Greater Metro Hockey League.

But first things first.

I see the CIHL continuing to operate because its founder and president Tim Clayden is a relentless individual who does not know the meaning of the word quit.

It would have been easy for Clayden to call it quits midway through the 2014-2015 season when the league went from eight teams to four to three and then to two.

Instead, Clayden swallowed his considerable pride, admitted to mistakes made on his part and began to re-group and re-build for 2015-2016 while keeping Batchewana and Espanola in full operation.

Clayden — who his adversary, Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League commissioner Robert Mazzuca, has publicly referred to as one of the best Junior A hockey operators in all of Canada — has already managed to get a head start on 2015-2016 by securing an ice contract with the City of Greater Sudbury for a new CIHL franchise.

He has also been poking around a couple of northern Michigan towns as he strives to ensure that the CIHL will operate with at least four viable franchises in 2015-2016.

I have faith in Clayden’s vision for a junior league independent of Hockey Canada. I also have faith in Clayden as a person and I don’t mind saying that, even if he has become a punching bag for anonymous blog posters and holier-than-thou coaches, managers and executives from hockey’s mainstream.

Clayden does not have delusions of grandeur for the CIHL.

He may have at one point when starting out but he now sees the CIHL as a level training ground for student-athletes where local players will also be given the opportunity to play for the local teams, a blueprint that has worked for both Batchewana and Espanola.

Clayden is no quitter.

And call me an optimist — as I do see the CIHL moving forward led by Clayden and a good following of trusted volunteers that he has on his side.

What you think about “CIHL plans ahead to 2015-2016”

  1. Randy, what happened to all the “pay-to-play” money put up by players on the six teams that started the season but have since disappeared?
    What is the status of those players — any idea how many of them were able to play hockey at all this winter, having found themselves offside of Hockey Canada?
    When will those players be allowed to return to teams under the Hockey Canada administration?
    How many D1 or CIS-level opportunities emerged from the first season? D3 and ACHA are really pay-to-play, so I curious how many guys actually obtained a genuine financial education benefit by joining the CIHL?
    There’s room for substantial, meaningful reporting on the CIHL that would of genuine use to prospective players and their parents.
    Thanks in advance.

  2. Would reader not be well served by some proactive journalism on the matter? Would that not be news?
    If reading about Mr. Clayden’s personality is news then surely informing readers — particularly prospective players and their parents — about the financial experience of player on six of the eight inaugural teams would seem to be possibly newsworthy too.
    Not to mention the implications for more than 100 kids who signed with the CJHL and were left without somewhere to play?
    Or checking the success of the education/promotion goals of the league?
    Or the status of players who might want to play elsewhere next year.

    1. Gerry,

      If you do not like what it written here, then don’t read it.

      I have a choice in what I write and in turn, you have a choice in what you read.

  3. Randy, I didn’t say I didn’t like it. I check in here semi-regularly to see what’s new. Most of the reporting is fairly straight forward but when it comes to the CIHL, it is, as you say, glass half full.
    I have to admit I’m becoming more curious why you don’t think it’s worth asking what happened the money those kids and their families put up. PErhaps it was all refunded on a pro-rated basis or whatever.
    Parents considering a similar path would no doubt also be curious given the franchise failure rate in the CIHL, which is substantial and certainly a massive flashing red light to people considering going this way.
    Financial accountability is a completely legitimate question.
    It was not my intention to offend anyone but perhaps it’s a question better directed to the CBC, whose work you seem to promote here.
    Have a great Sunday, and thanks for taking the time to reply.

    1. Gerry,

      Again, I think the teams that “disappeared” (as you put it) should be the ones answering any “financial accountability” questions.

      Thanks for reading and here’s to a good Sunday to you, as well.

      1. Randy if this comes up again direct them to WUHL website this was a great article thanks again Shawn
        and yes I know you don’t follow that league but that where the other teams are

  4. I always have enjoyed the “Canada versis US” team Games going back to the Eagles and Thunder Birds. I think the “Batchawana Attack” playing a Soo Michigan team would be great for the Fans.

  5. Think Randy’s dead on with this one. It is certainly a legitimate question, but none of those player cheques were written to the league. Four of the six teams continue to play under the WUHL banner after they broke off. Not much interested in it but I’d think they kept their rosters from the CIHL. One late arrival to the party is operating now as an Independent team, as it did before admission into the league. Two folded, Collingwood and Sudbury. Where the players’ money for these teams went would be found in those teams’ accounting ledgers.

  6. The idea of any association with the GMHL is interesting, as there are definite similarities as independent leagues. One might ask then why not just take the 4-5 CIHL teams and roll them into a North-Western division of the GMHL. Personally, as a fan and season ticket holder in Espanola, I want to see the CIHL succeed. No matter which side was responsible for the tiff between Mr. Clayden and Mr. Mazzuca, it was us as fans that got burned a number of times, most notably with the imposed playoff series schedule vs. Kirkland last year that meant many couldn’t come to the games. The Commish needs to be able to put personality conflicts aside. Thus not too interested in the NOJ coming back, at least at this time. We’ve also already had a failed GMHL team in town, who left in the night leaving large unpaid bills, so that league has a bit of a bad taste too.

    1. Well said.
      The CIHL are taking another shot at this and as I think they desserve this 2nd chance as life is all about 2nd chance’s as they say.
      The Rivermen have my support no questions asked Mr. Clayten and his Group are trusted by the majoritey in Town.

  7. Gerry you don’t seem to be understanding the parents paid the team the team pays the league with money’s mostly other than fees such as ticket revenues etc if parents feel ripped off they should go after teams period they made they cheques out to the clubs not the leagues

  8. Well we may have to many Junior teams in Greater Sudz but then again we have a hell of a lotta players to choose from here. I am antissipating who will be involved with this new CIHL Team in Sudbury. I hope the new Owner(s) are an improvement . .

  9. Gerry,

    In the WUHL the Milton Cobras sent 1 kid D3 and the St.Charles North Stars have sent a couple kids to the ACHA .

  10. Hey Gerry here is a fact that might set one of your statements back a bit. There is a player that left the Rivermen at Christmas time that went back out west to be closer to home. Guess what he is playing in a hockey canada league out there apparently the only place that anyone really cares about hockey Canada sanctions is Ontario.?

  11. Brian P:
    To quote Mr. Russon “Again, I think the teams that “disappeared” (as you put it) should be the ones answering any “financial accountability” questions. ” Using that reasoning it would seem that it would be the owners of the defunct Espanola Eagles that “left town in the night” owing monies and not the G.M.H.L.
    I, personally, would be interested to see how a G.M.H.L. Team would fare against the Rivermen. It would do nothing to legitimize the “Outlaw” label that has been branded on the G.M.H.L by Hockey Canada, who for some reason fear competition. I’m sure Hockey Canada will survive the onslaught . What it May do is get the G.M.H.L. and it’s players, (some exceptional young men) who are only concerned about playing the game and hopefully advancing , some recognition on H.N.N. You may HATE the league but is it fair to ignore the players?
    Randy seems to be a fair minded Sports Reporter and not a politician and as such his words on sports, hockey in particular , carry some weight.

  12. You`re absolutely right Ken, though the Eagles were NOJHL and left town on even terms. It was the Espanola Kings that played in the GMHL. I don`t hold a grudge against the league, in fact still follow the Sturgeon Falls team as it was my former home town. I suppose like any league, it comes down to the ownership group to run a class organization, and it isn`t fair to blackball a league based on a bad owner. My thoughts on a Rivermen-GMHL game, it all depends on the team. A Temiscaming seems like a powerhouse but there are also some very weak teams, like any league. Being season ticket holders for both teams, the Rivermen would destroy the defunct Kings, but is that a fair comparison ?
    Like others have said before, I feel that the Rivermen and the Attack would fit in the NOJHL. Maybe not in the championship fight, but holding their own for sure. I think the Attack would surprise a lot of people who think the level of hockey is lower. And the Rivermen usually give them a good game, with a couple off night exceptions.

  13. I do know that here in Brownstown the Fighting Irish are big on playing the C.I.H.L. Teams on a more regullar bases next season.

  14. From what I am hearing the MWJHL teams who will choose to inter-locking games are Detroit, Traverse City & Alpena. Word is that the Soo Firehawks will fold or be sold.

  15. Midwest Commisioner Scott Gardner is on board with the Canadian League he has made no secret of that on this Website.
    I also hear the same rumor about the Soo Fire Hawks. Doug & Paula want out and the Fire Hawks are For Sale.

  16. RR – I do not no if you can confirm this or not – the word around Blind is that the Coach of the Beavers Mr. Gallo has been suspended for the rest of this Season for bullying his Players.

    1. Beavers1,

      That is a question that should be put to Beavers president Bob Haworth or NOJHL commissioner Rob Mazzuca.

  17. If a player participates in a game after Sept. 30 of the current season he is ineligible to play on a Hockey Canada team that season but can return the next season to a HC team.
    The player that left to go back west may have left before this date or perhaps he joined a non HC team there as well.
    Who knows unless you provide his name.

  18. He plays in a junior b league in Alberta and played in Espanola until Christmas time. The league he plays in is a hockey Canada league. You do the homework to find out his name,I know his name

    1. The Players Name is Bryon Sam. It’s very interesting how Hockey Canada has these rules and some leagues are clearly not following them. This is not the only player that played in an “Outlaw League” past September 30th that is currently playing in a hockey canada league.

      1. Yep like I said it seems like the only ones that even care about this is ontario. You know for sure that HC is aware of this but I will give them kudos for thinking about the kids and letting them play hockey.

      2. I found this 94 player had moved to BC with the Columbia Valley Rockies. (BC not Alberta).
        He played 22 games with Espanola but couldn’t find any BC stats.
        The Kootenay International League has a link to Hockey Canada for what that is worth.
        More homework to come as MD suggested.;)

  19. Little clarification for you boys the Firehawks are not folding in anyway shape or form. Same team same coaches come next season

  20. It has been our personal policy to not respond to “Blogs” for the reason’s you stated earlier in the thread. We chose not to read them as we have found they are too often “guns for hire” in a public relations war and often not accurate. We were forwarded your article by someone we consider a friend who believes we should respond.
    We have been told the MWJHL will not consider an inter-locking schedule if the CIHL proceeds with any teams in Northern Michigan. We are NOT considering selling or folding anymore than any other owner of a Junior hockey team anywhere. As you know at this time of the year the hockey world is a rumors mill.

  21. as far as Rumors go rumor has the Soo Eagles thinking of putting a farm team in this CIHL. Rumors also that the former Eagles Scout (JW) is helping out the Soo Firehawks now. JW is not being out quiet about this neither.

  22. No one in Sudbury seems to know who the new ownership is or in what arena they’ll be playing in. Spill the beans Randy! It should be good news and not a secret.

  23. One way (might be the only ) for a player to return to Hockey Canada from a non Hockey Canada league (USHL, NAHL, CIHL, Europe etc.) after certain dates is under the designation of ‘Import’.

    1. Which makes sense in a way but also makes a mocharie of the rules does it not. A canadian player being called an import in a Canadian league.

  24. There is a goalie playing in Sudbury home league whom played in the CIHL after Supt 30th. It is possible even in Ontario

  25. I’m not sure it makes sense for Decatur to get involved in interleague games. DFI & the Monarchs would be my guess at having interest in this format. Traverse City, Alpena, Michigan & the Soo have no interest in these games unless they are sanctioned by AAU in the future. I’ve also heard rumors regarding the entire league being absorbed into a USA league, which would eliminate any games with non USA/CHA sanctioned programs.

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