How does the NOJHL compare?

May 25, 2015

It’s a question relative to the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League that I am often asked by parents, players and others.

How does the NOJHL compare to the North American Hockey League?

Whenever I am asked that question I usually begin answering by including the Ontario Hockey League in the equation.

On a junior hockey scale of 1-10, I rate the OHL as a 10 followed by the NAHL as an 8 and the NOJHL as a 7.

I have watched a lot of NAHL hockey over the past three seasons and while the NOJHL is not quite on par with it, the gap is close.

From my perspective, top 3 forwards, top 2 defencemen and starting goalies in the NAHL are a good grade above those from the NOJHL.

But as we get into comparing secondary players from both leagues, I really don’t see that much difference at all.

For example, the Soo Eagles made it to the finals of the NAHL North Division playoffs in 2014-2015 and I got to see a lot of that team.

In my view, the Eagles had second-and-third-line players who would also be second-and-third-line players on upper-half NOJHL teams from 2014-2015 such as the Soo Thunderbirds, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, Elliot Lake Wildcats and Cochrane Crunch.

And what it is noteworthy about how the NOJHL has advanced its level of play over the past five or so years is the better coaches that the league is attracting.

It wasn’t that long ago that outside of Paul Gagne and Tom McCarthy, the majority of other NOJHL coaches were part-time.

Now, as we look ahead to the 2016-2016 season, 10 of the 12 coaches in the NOJHL will be full-time including newcomer Moe Mantha, who coached in the NAHL the past five seasons, leading the Michigan Warriors to two North Division playoff titles in that span.

Overall, the NOJHL does not quite match up to the NAHL.

But for a better-than-average player — Canadian or American — who has aspirations of playing at a small Division 1 or a top Division 3, National Collegiate Athletic Association school, the NOJHL is a much-better option now than it was six or seven years ago.

What you think about “How does the NOJHL compare?”

  1. Can`t compare with other leagues but I find the level of play has decreased from yrs past but again that is at all levels , AAA midgets down .
    Rules have changed in which it changed the game .D-man don`t look over their shoulders as much as in the days of Moose Johnson from Manitoulin or Frank Desbiens of the Skyhawks were coming in the corners. You don`t see the knuckles flying as much when Bertrand from Abitibi was squaring off with McCrank of the SkyHawks. Then again we don`t have the Nathan Daly , the Matt Tremblay or the Jeff Rainville ,Serge Dubé of the past to name a few who brought the bar up which made the league better…..ah well can`t live in the past.
    Just my opinion…..

  2. Randy,
    A little off topic but I always wondered where the USHL is in comparison with OHL hockey? Are you familiar with much USHL hockey?

    1. Andrew,

      I am somewhat familiar with the USHL in that it is the only Tier 1 junior league in the USA, which makes it the equivalent in that regard of major junior (OHL, WHL, QMJHL) in Canada.

      But to be honest, I have never watched a single USHL game.



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