Around the NOJHL

May 26, 2015

Change is the operative word around the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League these days.


The big change within the growing league is the number of teams that will comprise the NOJHL in 2015-2016.

With approval in place, the NOJHL is poised to be a 12-team loop in 2015-2016 with — from east to west — the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, Cochrane Crunch, Iroquois Falls Eskimos, Timmins Rock, Powassan Voodoos, French River Rapids, Rayside-Balfour Canadians, Espanola Express, Elliot Lake Wildcats, Blind River Beavers, Soo Thunderbirds and Soo Eagles.

It wasn’t that long ago — 2007, in fact — that the NOJHL was a six-team league and its existence was in question.


Kevin Cain, who expertly piloted the Soo Thunderbirds to two NOJHL championships and two Dudley-Hewitt Cup, Central Canada titles in the past four years, is stepping aside as general manager to help care for his ailing mother.

As Cain — one of the real good guys of the NOJHL — moves away from the team, Jamie Henderson will take over as GM of the Thunderbirds.

Henderson served as the Thunderbirds assistant GM during the 2014-2015 season and in a previous stint with the team, was an assistant coach.


Chad Clarke, general manager of the expansion Espanola Express, advises of an open tryout camp to be held at Countryside Arena in Sudbury on June 13-14.

Players can register for the camp via the temporary website of the Express:


June 1 is when teams can officially begin to announce player signings and/or transactions.

And the NOJHL will hold its annual general meeting as team governors will gather in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. on June 19-21 to officially begin work on the 2015-2016 season.

To be determined is the division set-up, number of games to be played, playoff format and the status of commissioner Rob Mazzuca, whose contract is set to expire.


Cochrane Crunch owner-general manager-coach Ryan Leonard tells that he and his staff have “not stopped working” since the end of the 2014-2015 season preparatory to the 2015-2016 campaign.

Leonard said he and his trusted hockey department associates, Chad Vresk and Brad Boyer, have been scouting and recruiting players from the province of British Columbia and the state of Michigan, as examples.

“To tell you the truth, some of our returning players will need to prove themselves at training camp,” said Leonard. “We have a lot of good players who we have recruited wanting spots and some may push a vet out. My staff and I have not stopped working since the (2014-2015) season ended. It is our goal as a team to always improve.”

In its inaugural season in Cochrane in 2015-2016, the Crunch posted a regular-season record of 29-21-2 before winning two rounds of the playoffs only to lose to the eventual-champion Soo Thunderbirds in the finals.

What you think about “Around the NOJHL”

  1. With out a doubt this will hurt the Soo TBirds. Cain is one of the most respected GM’s in the entire CJHL.

  2. yes exciting times ahed for the Noj. From a personel view I like it that Rayside has a team again. As RR said in one of his other articles when you think of the history of the Noj one of the teams that comes to mind is Rayside.

  3. The Soo Thunderbirds Junior A hockey club has announced today that Jamie Henderson will take over for Kevin Cain as general manager. Henderson, who spent his first season as assistant general manager during 2014-2015, helped the NOJHL franchise to it’s second Dudley Hewitt Cup and third Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy in franchise history.

    “It’s a tremendous honor to be named the GM of the Soo Thunderbirds,” Henderson said. “The organization is amongst the most successful in all of the CJHL and I look forward to continuing to build the program with some truly great people.”

    “This past season was truly memorable and I can’t thank Albert, Jo-Anne and Kevin enough for this opportunity.”

    Prior to the 2010-2011 season, Jamie was named assistant coach of the team, in two seasons with the club, the team captured two NOJHL regular season championships, one Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy and the organizations first ever Dudley Hewitt Cup championship along with earning a berth at the RBC Cup.

    In 2012, Jamie was invited by former Soo Greyhounds general manager and current Toronto Maple Leafs Assistant GM Kyle Dubas to attend the Soo Greyhounds Development Camp and main training camp as guest coach. He returned to the Thunderbirds as assistant general manager prior to the 2014-2015 season.

    This past December, Jamie visited the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL, where he spent two weeks with the team learning and studying under the guidance of Coach-GM Clark Donatelli. The Nailers are the ECHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadians and Pittsburgh Penguins.

    From 2009-2011, Jamie served as an assistant coach with the St. Mary’s Knights hockey club and led them to an OFSAA championship title in 2010.

    Fourty seven year old Kevin Cain, who spent four seasons as the Soo Thunderbirds general manager, led them to Dudley Hewitt Cup titles in 2012 and 2015 along with Copeland Cup McNamara Trophies in the same years.

    “I have enjoyed my time with the Thunderbirds and all of our success,” said Cain. “I have had some great players and coaches, also I really wanted to thank them and all the staff, especially appreciative to Jo-Anne Brooks, Mr. Albert Giommi and all of the volunteers,” added the former 2013-2014 NOJHL director of the year. “Jamie will do a great job, and wish him the best of luck going forward.”

    Cain also served as an assistant coach with the Thunderbirds during 2003-2004, before winning the Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy as GM and head coach of the Soo Indians in 2007. He was also served as Team NOJHL’s general manager at the 2014 Central Canada Cup Challenge in Etobicoke, Ontario, along with being named to the NOJHL’s first all star team in 2013-2014 and the second all star team in 2014-2015.

  4. Hey Randy,

    Love reading your blogs. Check your website daily for more entertaining news on the NOJHL. Quick question, why do you not write anything about the Elliot Lake Wildcats? As a fan I would love to hear some news on the upcoming seasons team. We really had an amazing first year.

    All the best.

  5. Go Wildcats Go!,

    I am still waiting for the Wildcats general manager to return my call from several months back.

    Thanks for reading and for your nice words. I will try to give the Wildcats some coverage, especially if Todd calls me back.



  6. Yes, I echo that. The Wildcats were outstanding this year. Fun to watch, lots of skill. If not for Soo, may also have represented the NOJ in Portage. Looking forward the next season, and hoping they go with 2 Division format. Great rivalry with Sudbury and Soo, and welcome one with Espanola!

  7. Talking to a friend from the GMHL who tells me that the Mr. Donnan who owns the Eskimos and French River is such a ‘First Class Person’.
    I say this because its nice to have good people as Owner’s of the Teams.
    The League has had some Trash Ownership over time its nice that Mazucca is getting rid a the Bad Weeds.

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