Just what is going on down Highway 17 East at Blind River?
At the very bottom of the nine-team Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League are the once-proud Blind River Beavers with one point from a record of 0-38-1. That’s right, one lousy point.
And as bad as things are on the ice in Blind River, it is a mess off the ice as well.
What has happened to the Beavers of Blind River? It used to be better, so much better.
In fact, in a seven-year span from 2004-2011, the Beavers produced six winning seasons and were the model of a small-market franchise.
But it has been all downhill since the 2010-2011 season.
Since then, the Beavers have produced records of 8-40-2 in 2011-2012, 13-27-8 in 2012-2013, 10-42-4 in 2013-2014 and 0-38-1 thus far in 2014-2015.
Add up the awful numbers since 2011-2012 and they compute to 31 wins, 147 losses and 15 overtime setbacks.
As Blind River is even worse than ever this season with its brutal record of 0-38-1 — the Beavers have scored only 73 goals while allowing 262 — the fan base in the Milltown area has taken a major hit with average crowds well below the 200 mark. Worse, corporate sponsorship and support is down and the Beavers bills are piling up.
To be sure, the Beavers have lost a number of key allies over the years beginning with former general manager Don Lees, who was also a major financial contributor through his Milltown Motors business.
Then there are those who were alienated by a faction of the Beavers Board of Governors — from another former general manager in Rusty Joncas to multiple community-minded sponsors and volunteers who finally had enough of the knives to the back and the kicks to the teeth.
What’s next for the Beavers?
If you listen to team president Bob Haworth, all is well with the Beavers.
If you listen to others, Haworth is so clueless that he thought the Beavers were owned by the Town of Blind River rather than by the not-for-profit organization that it actually is.
At any rate, Haworth is on record as saying that the Beavers will be back in Blind River in 2015-2016 and continue to be a part of the NOJHL.
Others aren’t so sure, saying that the Blind River franchise will be under new ownership in 2015-2016 and depart the NOJHL along with the Abitibi Eskimos and Mattawa Blackhawks for the Greater Metro Jr. Hockey League.
Another whisper has Blind River leaving the NOJHL for the fledgling Canadian International Hockey League where the Beavers would be travel partners with the Espanola Rivermen, Batchewana Attack and a new team in Sudbury.
Whatever the case, whatever the future direction, the Beavers have bottomed out — on the ice, in the board room and in the cash box.