This is July and it is hot, hazy and humid away from the rink. But are we ever really away from the rink?
In body perhaps. But not in mind.
Traffic numbers to this site indicate hockey is as topical in June as it is in December.
And while I spent this past weekend with multiple family members in Detroit watching the Tigers take a pair of baseball games from the Blue Jays, close to 30 players were up north attending the first-ever tryout camp for the French River Rapids of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
Every day, even at this time of year, there is direct conversation that includes hockey.
As a writer, it is not a matter of searching for a story line, rather it’s a case of choosing one of the many that are out there.
To be sure, hockey never really takes a break.
Take the NOJHL, for example.
Since the 2014-2015 season ended, the NOJHL has grown from nine to 12 teams — and the commissioner who played a huge role in the expansion of the league pulled a shocker by resigning shortly after the late June, annual general meeting.
Now, as the NOJHL looks for a new commissioner to replace the effective Robert Mazzuca, the 12-team league is somewhat divided as it plans ahead to the 2015-2016 season with a newly-formed executive committee that is led by a chairman who is not trusted by various factions within the loop.
Still, there are positives vibes that hum through the NOJHL.
The return of the Michigan-based Soo Eagles from the North American Hockey League after a three-year hiatus means a revival of the cross-border rivalry with the Soo Thunderbirds.
The return of Espanola after an experimental season in the now-dormant Canadian International Hockey League will ignite rivalries between the new-look Express and the nearby Elliot Lake Wildcats and Rayside-Balfour Canadians.
The return of Rayside-Balfour restores an NOJHL presence to that area of Greater Sudbury which dates back to the Garson-Falconbridge Native Sons of 1962.
Rayside, which last had an NOJHL team in 2005, is the result of the cross-town relocation of the Sudbury Nickel Barons from Copper Cliff.
Then there is a simmering, looming rivarly between two close-together northeastern Ontario hockey towns of similar size — the Iroquois Falls Eskis and the Cochrane Crunch.
Combined, Iroquois Falls and Cochrane have a population of 10,000 — but small size does not get in the way of the passion and support that those two towns show for their NOJHL teams.
It may be the first week of July and it may be hot, hazy and humid but the first NOJHL games of 2015-2016 will be played in 65 days from now.
PHOTO: Returning to the Rayside-Balfour Canadians in 2015-2016 from the relocated Sudbury Nickel Barons of 2014-2015 are (left to right) veteran players Ryan Mooney, Brett Whitehead, Dan Lepage and Kyle Fransen. The four were part of a recent function at the Horse Tavern, which is one of the team’s major sponsors.