NOJHL is off base

April 29, 2014

As of now, three towns that housed Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League teams in 2013-2014 may not have a presence in the loop in 2014-2015.

Elliot Lake Bobcats are now the Cochrane Crunch.

North Bay Trappers are now the Mattawa Blackhawks.

Espanola Rivermen are leaving the NOJHL for the new Canadian International Hockey League.

Not that the NOJHL is necessarily done in Elliot Lake or North Bay, if you are to believe commissioner Robert Mazzuca.

Mazzuca has been trying to convince Town Council in Elliot Lake to have a financial stake in a new NOJHL franchise.

Mazzuca has been saying that there are groups interested in setting up a new NOJHL franchise in North Bay.

Well, we do give the man credit for talking a good game.

Because the fact of the matter is that the NOJHL has lost its 2013-2014 attendance leader from Espanola to the CIHL.

The fact of the matter is also that in 2012, the NOJHL lost one of its best-run franchises when the former champion Soo Eagles left for the North American Hockey League.

I have been a big fan of the NOJHL for years.

Truth be told, the direction the NOJHL has been taking has been making some folks — myself included — uneasy.

Mazzuca pulled off what appeared to be a power play two years ago when he convinced Elliot Lake owner-general manager-coach Ryan Leonard to leave the Greater Metro Jr. Hockey League for the NOJHL.

Two years later, Leonard has left Elliot Lake for Cochrane.

A year ago, Mazzuca and the NOJHL welcomed the return of Espanola after a 10-year absence.

A year later, Espanola is leaving the NOJHL for the CIHL.

Does anyone see a pattern here?

Just asking.

What you think about “NOJHL is off base”

  1. I am a proud resident of Elliot Lake, and as much as I love hockey, I hope that the cities efforts to put a team on the ice in the near future fails. Our community has more pressing needs, such as decaying roads and a lack of businesses, and investing any money into a junior hockey team is a waste. Junior A hockey teams don’t make money, no matter well their run.
    I am tired of owners thinking that their entitled to some sort of handout from city council, while things decay around town. I am tired of hearing about owners whining about attendance, even though most fans have decided to take the 10 dollars that they would have spent on a ticket for a hockey team putting food on their families tables because their struggling finding work right now.
    Hockey can work here in Elliot Lake but we need time to breathe and fix other things first.

    1. Onzie – I agree with you some what. I do not think the City of Elliot Lake should be partners in a hockey team, supportors of it Yes but financial partners No.
      However I think having a Junior team in Town is a good form of entertanement for us. If there is an Owner who could run the team properly it can work just as it works over in Espanola.
      I want a Team here for the sake of the Community but as you say the taxpayers should not have to pay for it – the Team should be privately owned.

  2. The NOJHL is certainly spiraling out of control in my opinion.
    How does Mazzuca continue to leave towns high and dry?
    I heard that when Bill Scott sold off Sudbury he left thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.
    Now the same is happening in North Bay and Mattawa from what I have been told.
    I understand the want of 8-10 teams but at what cost to business owners?
    I’m sure if it were Mazzuca owed thousands the tables would be turned ever so slightly.

  3. Here is what I think is a bit telling of the current priorities of the NOJHL. The NOJHL sends out a press release announcing the relocation of the North Bay Trappers to Mattawa in the middle of the championship series of it’s own league. My team was eliminated before the championship final but you can bet your bottom dollar if my team had been in the final and the league was spending its energy by announcing relocations and rumoured potential new buyers instead all eyes on the championship, I would have been upset. Could it not have waited until the championship was decided? Is hockey the priority or good public image? So in the spirit of putting hockey before all else, good luck to the Goldminers in their game tonight!

    I see a godzilla like pattern of wake and destruction left in Mazzuca’s path. He is allowing teams to rack up debt and run a free for all then simply pack up shop and try again somewhere else, leaving mountains of debt behind. How long will this go on before communities stop working with the NOJHL? how long will the communities take to realize that the citizens of their communities will wind up paying of the debts of mismanaged weak teams in the NOJHL? Do these communities realize that they are scaring their city’s name and leaving a bad taste in the supporters mouths, thus impeding other SUCCESSFUL owners from establishing long time franchises in their community? I was once a huge fan of the NOJHL, but I personally believe Mazzuca has dawned a new age of instability and untrustworthy behaviour in the NOJHL and for that I have become leary of this league.

  5. I am glad that Elliot Lake has told the nojhl last night at town council meeting, that the town and the tax payers will not fund his hockey team. They gave Commisioner Mazzuca a two week grace to try and put together a package to their satisfaction for a second time. He failed to deliver once again and showed up a second time to present to council unprepared. He would not disclose who the financial backers were also he wanted nothing to do with the huge debt apparentley left behind by former owner Mr. Leonard. My thoughts personally are , why would EL even consider talking to the NOJHL with how they were treated last year by the league?

    I believe this deal with EL was incredibly important to the western branch of the nojhl. Now that EL and Espanola are gone, can the SOO and the Beavers remain fiscally responsible with all the teams they will be playing all the way across the province, with now huge travel expenses? If Espanola the highest attendance leader could not afford it, I ask you how can these teams who are further away afford it? Could this be the TSN turning point for the nojhl?

    1. Puck Man…

      Clayden can afford it, he just feels that”if” he has to pay those extra expenses, why not spend that cash and give his players a greater chance at exposure. I agree with those sentiments 100%.

      He feels if his teams are forced to play up north in KL, Abitibi, Cochrane etc…the odds scouts make the trip up HWY 11 or 144 to go watch the games in the middle of winter..are slim to none.

      Clayden moving his team is the first step I feel in the eventual falling out of Mazzuca as the Commissioner of the NOJHL.

      Espanola was a rare case where they had over 300 season ticket holders, many supporters and financial backers, and quietly got about 200-400 walk-up ticket sales per game. The NOJHL is going to miss what Espanola brought to the league…not only in the attendance in Espanola, but elsewhere, where passionate Rivermen fans would travel to Elliot Lake, Blind River, Sudbury to watch their team play.

      That’s where Mazzuca will feel the pinch. In the playoffs, the McClelland Arena was filled with Espanola fans whom outnumbered Sudbury fans 3 to 1. There had to be about 800 fans there and 600 of them were Espanola fans. Nearly the entire season ticket base went to the games, and plenty of people travelled the 45 mins to go watch some excellent hockey.

      You can’t replace that, no matter where you go…whether thats Cochrane, Mattawa, the new North Bay Franchise under new ownership (allegedly) and so on. Mazzuca’s greatest failure will be losing the Espanola franchise..mark my words.

  6. Lets not throw rocks people! Lets just consentrate on our own Hockey teams regardless of which team we support and which League we are in. Negativity does no good to no body.

  7. I`m a supporter of the NOJHL because there is nothing else . Be it this league or an other as long as there is JR hockey I`m happy.

    I wish people would give up the excuse that Espanola is leaving the NOJHL because they don`t want to travel Hwy 11 north. C`mon make 4-5 road trip a season up here hitting K-L , Abitibi , Cochrane on the same weekend. Is it really that expensive than travelling Hwy 11 south ? There is a difference of approx. 2hrs between K-L & Cochrane.

    There was too much drama in the NOJHL this season ,the whole N-Bay fiasco , the feuding between Clayden & Mazzuca put a dark cloud over this league. There is no way E-L should have been granted their move in mid season…it should have been done quietly and at the end of their season , I feel bad for the E-L fans .Wonder why their weren`t too many fans in their playoff run ?
    A third year franchise wins the league and nobody is talking about it…was it overshadowed by all the drama?

    Be it this league or any other ,leave it on the ice and don`t exclude us northerners the privilege.

  8. I agree with everything you said Abitibi fan, well put.

    The only thing I would like to point out, for your statement about whether you travel north or south the cost will be the same, I think the costs will be drastically reduced. In the new CIHL the idea is to use divisions so you would play most of your travel games within a 150-200 mile radius of your team, thus cutting travel costs dramatically and pushing local rivalries that the fans can commute to. For example Espanola may only travel to the southern teams you mentioned once maybe twice per season. Also there American interlocking games will be played with the northern pennisula division teams which will still be a lot closer than the Cochrane runs. Which would result in half the trips and cost that would have been required to stay in the NOJHL.

    A very simple solution the NOJHL overlooked….just saying!

  9. Great points … I don’t think the issue is the distance to the most northern franchises but what teams get out of those road trips. From what I understand if you are going to take your team on a 5 hour trek, why not take it south where the chance of exposure to the players might be more plausible. I do agree that the drama overshadowed the the actual hockey this year and I would suggest that if we look at the three instances of drama that you stated happened this year much of that could have been dealt with differently if there was leadership that cared about the players, fans and hockey as opposed to ego.
    I agree with you about the EL fans. What happened to them was very unfair. I can remember the season before when the Bobcats were playing the Barons in a playoff series, where the EL fans probably outnumbered the Baron fans 2 to 1 in the Copper Cliff arena. They were loud , plentiful and I must admit annoying with their cowbells, but I digress. Those fans deserved better then finding out their team is moving mid way through the season. Couldn’t have been very good for the player’s morale either, hard to play for the front of the jersey when it already has a foot out the door.
    On the point of KL winning and not much being said about it, I agree 100%, the move of North Bay to Mattawa and the potential new team in North Bay completely overshadowed that championship series. Shame on the NOJHL executive! What was the rush??!!!

  10. Hey fan the espanola fans out numbered the Sudbury fans 4-1 if not higher. There was a lot of people bashing the people who showing faults with Mazzuca but now are seeing the point. he came in at first and did a good job then got power hungry. Oh well have fun hopefully the league can stay a float.

  11. Everybody keep thinking it’s about exposure that’s what they want . There will be no change in exposure regardless of where a player plays IN MY OPINION.
    The scouts know who the best players are by the time they are in bantam . Go to the rink and talk to the scouts and they’ll tell you that fact straight up . At the junior level they’re just there to heck on development of players they already know about . I have a friend who’s a scout for an NHL tam and gets paid to evaluate players at the junior and collegiate levels as well as the AHL . There are few surprises at these levels and every team has a network of former players and coaches who they trust to observe players that live in their area . If a scout has to go to the middle of nowhere to see a player then he goes . It really truly is a business at the junior level nothing else . Good junior coaches get paid to recruit and win games .Younger ones try to move up the ladder , older ones try to stay relevant . Owners try to break even or use the tax write off if they can . As fans , enjoy the games and the night out . Appreciate the players and their effort because in reality most are going to be rec league players sooner than later . It’s entertainment for you and business for the rest .

  12. Mr Bowman you make a great point about the exposure, I would like to add just a bit if I may do so, and this is just what I am thinking the expected AAU sanctioning of the CXIHL in the near future, and from what information I have gathered is that the AAU is allowing 15 and 16 years olds into the CIHL if this is true and I believe it could be that will certainly set the CIHL apart from all other leagues operating in the North for sure and maybe all of Ontario,
    I have watched and talked to many and they are suggesting that much of the Junior Hockey and midget hockey has broken down and simply just doesn’t work in Northern Ontario any more and maybe throughout the entire province. Saying that allowing 15 and 16 year olds into the CIHL gives an opportunity to provide many kids and their parents with a choice and in my opinion and in many locations gives a better opportunity to play junior hockey, while developing as both a student athlete player and person on and off the ice. Thats if the 15 and 16 can play at home and continue to go to their school.
    I also understand and correct me if I am wrong the Great North Midget league is to expensive and just is falling behind the rest . Will the NOJHL to fall behind the rest of the Jr Hockey though out the province.
    I do believe having access to 15 and 16 year olds is great for the kids of the Northern Ontario and great for the CIHL to and great for the OHL to place European players and the kids they want to look at closer in the their draft year. This is my opinion only and not meant to create a big fight. Right or Wrong that is just how I feel, my son had the opportunity to play as a 15/16 in a Jr League out West and it worked out for him in every way. To those no I am not TC or Marcel, just a hockey day that still enjoys hockey and feel this way let the players play without all the drama, Hockey does not need it lets support all the leagues and give the local town something to cheer about.

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