Best laid plans of the NOJHL

April 13, 2015

There is a lot happening on and away from the rinks of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League as we approach mid April.

On ice, Soo Thunderbirds and Cochrane Crunch are playing for the NOJHL championship. Off ice, there’s more action than working the Saturday night desk at a seedy northern Ontario hotel.


Tied at 1-1, the NOJHL title set continues this Thursday and Friday in Cochrane where the Crunch will play host to the regular-season champs from the Soo in Games 3 and 4 of the best-of-seven series.

On one side, we have the Crunch — which finished fourth overall in the nine-team NOJHL during the regular season — trying to win a championship for a town that is new to the league.

Led by high-strung, high-wire, high-energy coach-general manager Ryan Leonard, Cochrane has quickly become a good NOJHL town in its first season in the league.

While the irascible Leonard at times seems fit for a role in a looney-tunes episode, he has shown he can coach with the best in the league.

On the flip side, we have the Thunderbirds who are in the NOJHL finals for the fourth successive spring.

The Soo won the NOJHL title in 2011-2012 but lost in the finals to the erstwhile North Bay Trappers in 2012-2013 and to the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in 2013-2014.


They are holding their breath in Iroquois Falls awaiting word from the governing Northern Ontario Hockey Association to approve the relocation of the Mattawa Blackhawks to the tidy town of 4,500 hearty souls.

At the same time, the NOHA holds in its hands the fate of an NOJHL expansion team from the French River area.

NOJHL governors have already given their unanimous approval for the move from Mattawa to Iroquois Falls and for a new team to set up shop in the French River.

Meanwhile, NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca is keeping an anxious watch on the league’s troubled spot in Blind River.

The Beavers are coming off a brutal 2014-2015 season in which they lost all 56 games they played — and also lost many of their faithful fans.

Mazzuca remains convinced that the NOJHL can work in Blind River — with the right owners, the right general manager and the right coach.

About the only thing that Beavers management has got right the past few seasons is the right turn into the arena parking lot in Blind River.

What you think about “Best laid plans of the NOJHL”

  1. Season Tickets for the 2014-15 TIMMINS ROCK are on Sale !!! You can visit are Website: and call 705-232-0566 . “ROCK ON!”

  2. Crunch are gonna win ’cause we have the best Coach in the League. Good article by you Randy. Thank You.

  3. AGM/ELECTIONS for the Blind River Beavers will be held on April 21st, 7:30 in the multi-purpose room at the BR arena. General meeting will follow the AGM.

    Advertising is out for a GM, Coach and all ice personal, also for all positions on the board of directors.

    This is your chance to come out and help the BEAVERS and stop criticizing about those who have at least been trying to keep this team going.

    Would be nice to see as many of you as possible at this meeting.

    Please come out and help or just show your support for the TEAM. Volunteers are the backbone to any organization.

  4. The Rock are the talk of the Town and I predict that Timmins will lead the League in fan support . . . . . as we embrace our new Junior “A” team I wish to thank Scott Marshall for making this happen and of course Mayor Black to. Scott might run for Mayor now and Win all jokes a side.

  5. We Rock is so right we are dancing in the streets of Timmins and we are ready to “ROCK ON”
    To Tom Perry and Randy Russin “Thank You” for the great articles and for telling our storey!

  6. No rumours out of Espanola? Word around town is that the Rivermen will NOT be welcome back in town. This is a huge disappointment but more disappointing would be if the council booted out a first class team (in a troubled league but we had hockey every Friday night) and we have the arena sit empty.

    1. Brian,

      I do believe we will hear, after April 15, what is next for Espanola. That’s all I can say, man.

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