The new Ontario-based, junior hockey league that detractors said would never get off the ground is less than a month away from dropping its first puck.
With four teams in northern Ontario and four more from the southern area of the province, the Canadian International Hockey League is ready and set to go with a regular-season schedule to begin during the first week of October.
“Being new and having only been in the works for less than seven months, we are ecstatic to say that we have eight teams ready to play,” said CIHL founder and president Tim Clayden, who also owns the Espanola Rivermen, formerly of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
“We have had to overcome numerous bumps along the way and we know there will be more bumps ahead,” Clayden said evenly. “But we as a league and our member teams are prepared and ready for what lies ahead. We have good people in place with all eight of our teams and we have good people on our executive who know their way around the game.”
Clayden’s Espanola entry — which led the NOJHL in attendance in 2013-2014 — along with the Batchewana Attack, Sudbury Royals and St. Charles Spirit will comprise the North Division of the CIHL.
Colborne Cramahe Hawks, Collingwood Ice, Milton Battle Arts Cobras and Toronto Jr. Hockey Academy will make up the South Division.
What stands out about the CIHL is the number of its coaches who have played the game at a high level, namely the Ontario Hockey League and the National Hockey League.
For instance, three grads of the OHL who went on to lengthy playing careers in the NHL, have been hired to coach teams in the new CIHL.
Combined, Milton’s Dennis Maruk, Batchewana’s Denny Lambert and Tom McCarthy of Espanola played in more than 1,900 NHL games.
Now, as coaches, Maruk, Lambert and McCarthy are just three individuals directly involved with the CIHL who give it big-time credibility.
PHOTO: Dennis Maruk played in more than 900 National Hockey League games, once scoring 60 goals in a season for the Washington Capitals. The 58-year old Maruk — pictured above at the NHL Winter Classic Alumni game in 2011, wearing no. 21, and in action against Ron Francis, Mario Lemieux and other Pittsburgh Penguins legends — will coach the Milton Battle Arts Cobras of the new Canadian International Hockey League this season.