NOJHL is open for business

November 11, 2015

As a growing association with a current all-time high of 12 teams, the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League could add another two to four more members over the next couple of years.

Team governors and league commissioner Robert Mazzuca have had formal and informal discussions about potential expansion and while no one wants to talk on the record — for reasons that pertain to confidentiality — groups representing Hearst, Ont. and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan are among those that have shown a level of interest in joining the NOJHL, has learned.

With teams now able to recruit players from across Canada and the United States with fewer restrictions than before, the NOJHL has been able to expand to its current 12-team, two-division format while keeping travel expenses in line.

And to be sure, any further expansion would be done with an eye towards keeping expenses where they are — or even reducing them — according to NOJHL sources with knowledge of the situation.

For example, should Hearst join the NOJHL as an expansion team, it could be looped into a division with nearby towns that currently house the Iroquois Falls Eskis, Cochrane Crunch, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and Timmins Rock.

And, a new team from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan could potentially be part of a division with the Soo Eagles, Soo Thunderbirds, Blind River Beavers and Elliot Lake Wildcats.

Are all NOJHL governors on board with further expansion?


For example, Timmins president Scott Marshall is reportedly hesitant to expand to the extent that he is trying to use his position as NOJHL chairman of the board to discourage the addition of new teams.

Then again, the newly-formed board of directors may not continue to exist in its current state beyond this season.

More than one team owner-president has made it quite clear that Marshall, as chairman of the board, has alienated himself from a number of fellow governors with a pompous, arrogant attitude of self-importance.

At any rate, as the NOJHL operates under the planning, guidance and influence of its veteran commissioner Mazzuca, the league is gaining in reputation and stature while the level and caliber of play improves.

The NOJHL appears to be in the best shape that it has been since the highly-respected Joe Drago — who now serves as the influential chairman of the board for Hockey Canada — was commissioner.

Even those who have been at odds with current commissioner Mazzuca are not shy to say, publicly or otherwise, that they are impressed with his leadership and vision.

As for further expansion that will make the NOJHL a 14, 15, or 16-team league within the next few years, mum is the official word from within the sanctity of the league chambers.

But the off-the-record whispers that are sent the way of this hockey writer speak volumes that the NOJHL has aspirations of becoming bigger, better and more cost-effective.

What you think about “NOJHL is open for business”

  1. Manitoulin … I would like to see a Team back in Little Current … all Native First Nation Players Welcome to play.

  2. That is EXCELLENT news. I applaud Mr. Mazzuca for the vision and courage to grow the league despite opposition. Instead of circling the wagons and clinging on for dear life, it great to see EXPANSION in the north.

  3. The Town of Saint Ignace wood support a Team in our NOJHL with the rite Owner Ship of corse. They wood pro vide compatition to the “Tyrant Bruno” and the Soo Eagles!!!!!!

  4. Alpena , Kalkaska , Traverse City , Marquette , . . . . Northern Michigan town’s that would be perfect for the NOHL in my humbel opinion.

  5. I think that having a team in Hearst would be awesome and create more rivalrey with what we already have in this Area. The Elans are a proved hockey programme.

  6. Geezs I dont know about having more teams as I know how this is a struggle in Blind right now. it has been a struggle since Todd left. I am a fan of the Beavers and the NOJ I just hope that Mazzuca doesnt get to big for his bridges.

  7. I don’t know where they’re finding all these junior A calibre hockey players, but the more the merrier. As long as the quality of hockey doesn’t get worse, I’m okasy with expansion as long as the NOJHL is making some profit.

  8. Does anyone remember the Mattawa Blackhawks? A team that only lasted one season (2014-15) under David Beauchamp, until the team was taken away from him….
    No one mentioned Parry Sound as a possible destination. If you go back to 1994, the Parry Sound Shamrocks lasted until 1999 going to the league finals in their final 2 seasons in the NOJHL until moving to the OPJHL.

    Mattawa won’t be able to support an NOJHL team again, because of a really small arena. Sudbury and North Bay are out of the question because of the OHL. How does the Soo still have a team that’s always successful? I was also thinking Huntsville, Kapuskasing, Hearst, Temiscaming and possibly Little Current as premiere franchise locations.

  9. Sturgeon Falls Lynx (1994 to 2002) before moving to N.B.
    Manitoulin Wild/Islanders (2002 to 2011) before moving to Kirkland Lake
    North Bay Trappers/Skyhawks (2002 to 2014) before moving to Mattawa
    Mattawa Blackhawks (2014-15) before moving to Iroquois Falls
    Haileybury 54’s (1988-1990) before moving to Powassan

  10. Kirkland Lake Gold Miners – well-established fan base
    Timmins Rock – will be around for a while
    Cochrane Crunch – championship contender
    Powassan Voodoos – as long as the Battalion are in the OHL, the Voodoos are possible
    Soo Thunderbirds – on the verge of folding, but are continuously a winning team
    Soo Eagles – questionable
    French River Rapids – relocation after a few years
    Blind River – will there be a winning season?
    Elliot Lake Wildcats – will they follow in the Vikings footsteps?
    Espanola Express – a few years and folding
    Iroquois Falls Eskis – Eskimos would have been better
    Rayside-Balfour Canadians – who not Sabrecats?

  11. I would love to see a NOJHL expand to Hearst , its in northern Ontario , I think the fan base there would be great also .

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