The Town of Espanola has unanimously voted to accept the return of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League to its community for the 2015-2016 season, HockeyNewsNorth.com has confirmed.
Espanola mayor Ron Piche said the town has accepted a proposal from a local group led by Tom McCarthy, Jason Rapcewicz and Chad Clarke to play out of the Recreation Complex.
“The highly-anticipated return to the NOJHL will provide team stability and a strong sense of loyalty to our community,” said Piche.
The new team, to be called the Espanola Express, had already received an unofficial thumbs-up from the NOJHL and now awaits approval from the governing Northern Ontario Hockey League Association.
A veteran junior bench boss who played in 528 National Hockey League games (playoffs included), the aforementioned McCarthy will be head coach of the new Espanola Express, Rapcewicz will be the associate coach and Clarke will serve as general manager.
The poised return of Espanola to the NOJHL comes after a one-year hiatus.
As members of the NOJHL during the 2013-2014 season, the team known as the Espanola Rivermen led the league in attendance.
But former owner Tim Clayden pulled the Rivermen from the NOJHL to start the Canadian International Hockey League, which folded following its inaugural 2014-2015 campaign.
McCarthy, Rapcewicz and Clarke all had prior ties to the erstwhile Espanola Rivermen.
Clayden is not in any way associated with the new Espanola Express, said Clarke.