Time may not be on the side of the new Canadian International Hockey League as its teams prepare to take the ice for an inaugural 2014-2015 season.
But teams in the Ontario-based CIHL — which is sanctioned by the United Hockey Union under the umbrella of the Amateur Athletic Union — do have an advantage over other junior leagues when it comes to recruiting players.
The way the CIHL is set up, Canadian and American players share equal status as non-imports and all teams in the new league can roster up to 12 Europeans — and that is something that no other sanctioned junior league in Canada or the United States can lay claim to.
Founder and president Tim Clayden may have been in a race against time when he decided in late February of this year to move his Espanola Rivermen out of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League to start the new CIHL but the man had a plan in place and he has moved forward with it.
Clayden quickly billed the CIHL as “a league without borders” and the fact that Canadian and American players are one in the same and teams can use as many as 12 Europeans is a stroke of brilliance on the part of the visionary founder.
So while there are teams in the NOJHL that do not have a pool of local talent to draw from and are restricted in the number of imports they can sign, CIHL clubs face few limitations as they recruit players from North America and Europe while also allowing the use of 15-and-16-year-old local talent.
As time moves forward, smaller-market NOJHL clubs such as the Abitibi Eskimos, Cochrane Crunch, Mattawa Blackhawks, Elliot Lake Wildcats and Blind River Beavers figure to be at a player-recruiting disadvantage to teams in the CIHL.
To be sure, the CIHL is new and the NOJHL is established, which is an advantage for the latter. But how long will that advantage last?
Time will tell.