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.
CAIN STEPS ASIDE
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.
EXPRESS OPEN CAMP
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: gonefishing8518.wix.com/espanolaexpress.
ALSO COMING UP IN JUNE
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.
THE CRUNCH BUNCH
Cochrane Crunch owner-general manager-coach Ryan Leonard tells HockeyNewsNorth.com 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.