NOJHL boss was OHL star


Randy Russon
By
March 6, 2021
The ’81-82 Sudbury Wolves with Rob Mazzuca (front row) as team captain

These days, Rob Mazzuca is well known as the likeable, respectable commissioner of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.

With deep northern Ontario roots, Mazzuca — who has been the league’s commander in chief since 2011 — has brought a thorough, thoughtful, professional approach to his position and to the NOJHL itself.

And during his playing days, Mazzuca was no slouch as a standout defenseman who was a first round pick (11th overall) of the Sudbury Wolves at the 1979 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft.

Of note, Mark Hunter who is now the part owner and general manager of the London Knights, was the first overall pick at that 1979 OHL draft. A bruising right winger, Hunter went to the Brantford Alexanders with the no. 1 pick, just ahead of defenseman Dirk Rueter, who was drafted second overall by the Soo Greyhounds.

As for Mazzuca, who hails from the Greater Sudbury community of Capreol, he would play three full seasons for the Wolves from 1979 through 1982. A natural leader, Mazzuca was team captain during his final OHL season with the Wolves, which was the 1981-1982 campaign.

Of note, the general manager and coach of that ’81-82 team, Joe Drago, would later become commissioner of the NOJHL.

Solidly built at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Mazzuca suited up for 188 regular season games for his hometown Wolves. And from his defense position — and never playing for a Wolves team that had a winning record — Mazzuca totaled 32 goals, 102 assists, 134 points while racking up 423 minutes in penalties as a smart, skilled, hard rock defender.

Mazzuca graduated from the Wolves following the 1981-1982 OHL season to attend university and play hockey in Atlantic Canada.

But in a shrewd move, Sam McMaster, who was general manager of the Soo Greyhounds at the time, added Mazzuca as a free agent late in the 1982-1983 season, following the completion of the university schedule.

As an overage player, Mazzuca got into seven regular season games with the Greyhounds and tallied three goals, two assists, five points. He then suited up for 16 playoff games and netted three goals, six assists, nine points as the Greyhounds made it to the OHL finals only to be swept by coach Paul Theriault and the Oshawa Generals.

The next season, Mazzuca headed back out east and eventually earned his university degree.

A fiercely proud northerner through and through, Mazzuca has often said that he is proud to have played his entire OHL career for two teams of the north — Sudbury and the Soo.

Just as he is proud to head up the NOJHL and operate the league out of its Sudbury headquarters.


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