On the surface, the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League appears to be in good shape in the aftermath of its annual general meeting in which it ended the 2013-2014 season and began the 2014-2015 campaign on one weekend.
Despite the departure of the attendance-leading Espanola Rivermen to the new Canadian International Hockey League, the NOJHL is now a nine-team league with seven franchises returning from 2013-2014 and new ones in Elliot Lake and Powassan added for 2014-2015.
Having lost its previous team via relocation to Cochrane, all is new in Elliot Lake with oldster Todd Stencill on board as general manager. Stencill has prior experience with three different NOJHL franchises.
And the North Bay Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League has a stake in the new Powassan entry and has directed Chris Dawson to be the general manager. Like Stencill, Dawson has previous NOJHL experience as a manager.
Meanwhile, from its weekend AGM that was held in Sault Ste. Marie, NOJHL governors voted to return to a two-division format for 2014-2015.
Abitibi Eskimos, Cochrane Crunch, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, Mattawa Blackhawks and Powassan will form the East Division.
Soo Thunderbirds, Blind River Beavers, Sudbury Nickel Barons and Elliot Lake will make up the West Division.
All teams will play 52 regular-season games in an unbalanced schedule.
To be sure, NOJHL commissioner Rob Mazzuca is painting a rosy picture for the nine-team league, which is part of his job as an ambassador.
“This is tremendous news for the NOJHL,” Mazzuca said of the addition of the new franchises in Elliot Lake and Powassan.
As of this writing — June 23, to be precise — the NOJHL has nine teams, which is the most it has had since its modern formation as a Junior “A” league in 1978.
Ergo, right now, all is good.
PHOTO: NOJHL commissioner Rob Mazzuca has watched his league grow to nine teams since the end of the 2013-2014 campaign.