NOJHL issues

March 5, 2014

In many respects, the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League has been a good follow this 2013-2014 season.

Soo Thunderbirds and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners have not only been the top two teams in the NOJHL with 40-plus regular-season victories apiece but both are highly-rated within the Canadian Jr. A Hockey League rankings.

As well, Abitibi Eskimos and Espanola Rivermen have made for quite the race for third-and-fourth place.

The Rivermen have not only been a first-year, on-ice success in Espanola but are the NOJHL attendance leaders with a per-game average of just over 500.

But there are issues for the NOJHL to deal with it as it peeks ahead.

Espanola owner Tim Clayden has served written notice to the NOJHL that he intends to move the Rivermen to another junior league effective the 2014-2015 season.

In North Bay, the Trappers have become persona non grata and are looking to officially relocate.

The Trappers have financial issues and outstanding bills and on a recent 11-hour round-trip to and from the Soo on a bitterly-cold night, players were transported on a school bus.

Then there are the Elliot Lake Bobcats.

Unable to make a financial go of it in Elliot Lake, the Bobcats announced their intention to move to Cochrane for the 2014-2015 season.

The catch is, the Bobcats have already unveiled their new name — the Cochrane Crunch — and done so while still tied to Elliot Lake for the remainder of the 2013-2014 season. Talk about poor timing and an apparent lack of regard for the fans and supporters in Elliot Lake.

Still, the move to Cochrane looms as a potential boost for that community and for the financial well-being of owner Ryan Leonard, who tells me he has taken a major hit to his bank account over two NOJHL seasons in Elliot Lake.

Besides North Bay, there are also concerns about future operations in Blind River, not to mention the Soo.

Average attendance at Beavers games in Blind River is at a reported 10-year low.

And with Elliot Lake leaving for Cochrane, Espanola apparently on its way to another league and Blind River somewhat iffy, the travel budget for the Soo figures to dramatically increase come the 2014-2015 season.

Oh, we have heard the brave talk that it will be no big deal if Espanola leaves the NOJHL for another league.

Really? You stand to lose your attendance leader and it’s no big deal?

We have also heard the fierce talk that all will be well with the Trappers once they find a new home, that everything is okay in Blind River and the Soo — and that the NOJHL is trying to find new owners for Elliot Lake.

We have also heard the exact opposite.

Who knows?

Maybe everything is and will be okay.

Then again, maybe not.

What you think about “NOJHL issues”

  1. Mattawa is not as good as the Trappers are making it, there was less then 50 people in the stands and about 35-40 in the lobby watching, 20-30 more people then announced attendance in North Bay.

  2. Does anyone believe the attendance figures provided by Espanola? I do not. I say that Abitibi number one in attendance followed closely by the surging KL Gold Miners who are becoming a powerhouse in JRA Hockey. Watch out for them next year especially if Gold comes to $4000 per ounce as rumoured… although I really hope that Paul Gagne can rise to the challenge for our Eskies.

    1. I would like to point out that Espanola has 271 season ticket holders and 52 paid sponsor tickets! Espanola has almost 325 fans at each game before the doors even open. The numbers are accurate!

  3. Ramore Follower

    I agree with your opinions as stated however do you see Marc Lafleur and Tom Sinclair in the NOJHL next year? If so…great for the Gold Miners and just as great for the NOJHL.

  4. what are the chances of Timmins putting a team in league ?

    Timmins would be a great fit now with the Near North NOJHL
    Kirkland Lake

    if the Rivermen do leave the league with Elliott Lake leaving, I just can’t see Blind River and the T-Birds making the 9 hour road trip every 3 weekends to the near north regardless of the cost. Is there going be enough Northern Ontario junior hockey players to fill these teams once the American lads have been bounced out of the Hockey Canada system and why are Americans being kicked out of hockey in Canada, we won the Olympics ……… again.

  5. We have had 700 fans for a few games in in Espanola so I think our numbers are accurate.

    Now really — why would the commissioner expect the fans and sponsors in Elliot Lake to support another NOJHL team with letting this happen while the season is still going on? Here we go — poor leadership leads to poor decisions.

  6. Again I have been disappointed by the NOJHL ….why have they allowed the Bobcats to announce their move with 4 weeks left in their season? And as a thank you to their great fans and corporate supporters they will be playing their playoff games in Cochrane?

    Now to top all of this off with a cherry, The commissioner then apparently asks the Elliot Lake mayor to rejoin the NOJHL next year, how absolutely crazy is that? That just makes me laugh hysterically!!!! What a blatant disrespect for the great fans and sponsors of Elliot Lake who have supported this team for many years in the GMHL and the last two years in the NOJHL.

    Actually in your article you stated Randy that the decline to the Bobcats has occurred over the last two seasons. Is this a coincidence? That is when the team switched from the GMHL to the NOJHL, why did the team have more fans in the GMHL than the NOJHL? Can anyone answer these questions?

  7. the Elliot Lake move has more to do with the town’s economics than anything else.. Ryan was losing his shirt there since the town’s economy has been devastated by the mall collapse, again about two years ago….
    It is only my guess but Ryan decided not to lose any more money but in the same vein once the new mall is re-opened and running the town may be a bit more flush with cash… but the GMHL will not come back to Elliot Lake unless there are other teams.. the closest team in the GMHL is Sturgeon Falls…
    why more fans? easy.. the GMHL Bobcats were dominate whereas the NOJHL Bobcats were simply just good and the town had more money to spend on tickets…

    and for Mattawa? don’t hold your breath.. this league is always too eager to announce team moves.. they havent said a word about this….

  8. There has been alot of talk about a new league with very little confirmation from anyone other than espanola about joining it. If a new league is started do the existing eligible players from espanola become free agents or do they remain property of the espanola rivermen even though this supposed new league will not be sanctioned by hockey canada? Anyone have any answers?

  9. Big Joe,
    You will not see a team in Timmins while there are ones in I.F. and Cochrane. Period.

    Randy, in a perfect world, any move from one community to another would be an absolute secret until an announcement at the end of a current season. But this is not a perfect world is it? While an owner (Leonard) is bleeding money, and trying to not only retain his club, but maintain its competitiveness, he has to look after finding a new home. Fair enough. But talks have to happen, nothing stays a secret for long, and sooner or later it’s best to lay the cards on the table than to keep fanning the flames of rumor. Events have to fall into place by or before certain dates also, I’m sure.

    For the EL faithful, for sure its disappointing to say the least. However if this is the owner’s living, his bread ‘n butter, and he’s bleeding cash, can anyone blame him for doing what he had to do, in spite of imperfect timing? Would Mayor Politis in Cochrane have kept this all a secret (succesfully?) until the end of the season?
    To both questions, I believe the answer is “not likely”.

    Re. Espy ; let’s ask the question bluntly, in regards to it being an “attendance leader”…. and the question is…. “so what?’ While it’s a shame if a supportive community loses its Jr. A tier club, is it that community’s fault? Doesn’t appear to be. So why is Espy at risk of losing its franchise? The owner’s made it clear why he doesn’t want to be there, whether we believe him or not, whether his argument is logical or persuasive or otherwise. Certainly there is a cost to any hockey; but should there be hockey at any cost? Should the League grant whatever concessions to one club, to grease a proverbial squeaky wheel? Should the needs of a few (or one) outweigh the needs of the many?
    Ummmm .—– nah.
    If Espy’s that lucrative of a market, someone else will move in, or then again, the community could be motivated enough to establish its own community-owned club. In either scenario, I’m sure the league would do what it could to bring or retain this caliber of hockey in the community. But not at any cost.

    1. Alberta Bound the the team I repeat the team
      is not leaving the town. Please re read your info
      the team is leaving the league. Also people I have
      talked to in Elliot Lake that were fans don’t mention
      anything about economy etc they seem to be fed
      up with management. Maybe they don’t all feel
      that way but the ones I talk to do. When we go
      there for games the season ticket holders that sit
      close to the visiting bench seem to not care
      for the coach,but that may not be the only problem.

    2. Alberta bound I find many flaws with your arguement. No one blames Leonard for making a business decision to move, I think its safe to say everyone understands that! The problem lies with how the ownership and the league have gone about the transition. I am not even a part of the community and I find it to be incredibly disrespectful to the fan base and sponsors to treat them this way and I firmly believe everyone could have stayed quiet and professional about this for one more month. Instead they chose to go the unproffesional route and make a circus out of the whole ordeal! To top it all off the NOJHL has the nerve to ask the city to put another team there, after treating the town, citizens, fans and business like dirt! in my opinion that is a slap in the face to the community and I hope they stand up for themselves and bar NOJHL from crossing EL town lines.

      as for your Espanola comments, none of them are valid! I think you should do a little more research. The team is not going anywhere! they will remain in Espanola and continue to play jr hockey there. Where I believe you have gotten confused is, they have chosen to leave the league NOJHL for reasons of mismanagement and severe increase in travel expense, for what? minimal college exposure…….. In a financial enviroment where breaking even is considered a success, asking teams to spend in excess of $40,000 more JUST for travel is ludicrous. The Espanola ownership feels if their travel expenses need to increase then why would they spend it on travelling to the North where there will be anywhere from zero to zero college exposure, when they can spend the exact same amount and go to the upper peninsula and play in the heart of the college exposure, where their players will be observed by exponentially more scouts then the north pole hockey league (NOJHL) Somebody must keep the best interest of the players in mind!

  10. Owner-general manger-coach Ryan Leonard has confirmed his Bobcats team will indeed be playing their upcoming home playoff games in Elliot Lake and not in Cochrane as has been stated and speculated by some. Here is an e-mail I just received from Ryan:

    Randy, I just wanted to give you some good info …the Bobcats are playing all there home games here in Elliot Lake in playoffs we do owe it to our fans that do come… from business stand point yes we are nuts as we would probably get 800 to 1000 fans a night in Cochrane if we end up playing Abitibi and get ourselves out of debt. We do owe it to our fans that is only reason why we will stay and play.
    Locally on the town blogs and on the street at the games we are getting” thank you for 7 years” and good luck in your new town. Sure some are hurt but most understand. Like anything u will get that group who does want to start trouble. Also we would never have gone public about anything yet but with in 24hrs of being approved our Mayor knew, Moose fm knew cause some one called them I will leave at that. So we had no choice but to move forward and make announcement not that it was a secret. As we did know where we were going. The town wants to keep team here. A group of local business men who are very powerful men will do everything possible. I think a team should stay here but owned by a non profit group who has access to a lot more funds than I did. Randy you have always been a big part of NOJHL. Thanks for your always great support to myself and my crazy ventures! – Ryan

  11. I will say that when I heard the rumour of playoff games here in Cochrane I thought, while I would enjoy it that it was a Slap in the face to all fans in Elliot Lake who have supported the team in the past. Now that Mr. Ryan has confirmed that the playoff games will be in Elliot Lake I applaud him for his letting the Elliot Lake fans they last hurrah of the Bobcats. ( Hopefully not the last time they can cheer for a NOJHL Team.) As for watching the Bobcats, Eski land is just a hop skip and a jump away.

  12. If hockey is supposed to be about the players then the bigwigs should remembeer that for crying out friggin loud. I aplauwd Claydon for leaving this mess that is the NOJHL.
    As for the Trappers there owner got served the other nite in Mattawa and I wonder if he evan owns the Trappers any more. ????

  13. I wonder if he owned them at all ever since the Peavey and Storr trade to Espy for a 20 year old??
    Anyone know if there’s a rule about owning 2 teams in the NO?

    1. Just so you know, Tim Clayden has kept the North Bay Trappers financially afloat this season. And that is right from Trappers owner David Beauchamp himself. I have it in an e-mail. If Clayden hadn’t stepped in to financially assist the Trappers, they would have folded mid-season. Again, that is right from Beauchamp himself. It’s about time the truth gets told.

  14. There are guy’s out there who like to sh-t on Clayten but there you go he has saved North Bay Traps strait from Beachamp him self.

  15. NBT and Mr Russon
    you state that Beauchamp got served? I’m assuming you meant legal documents…then you ask if he really owns the team?
    I posed the question if he ever owned them at all (and Mr Russon states that Clayden was paying the bills).
    If Clayden was paying some bills them I’m merely asking if this particular trade was on the up and up. Hey Dave “trade me Storr and Peavey for this 20 year old and I’ll see that your bills get paid” wink wink… I thought the trade was a bad one for NB.
    Therefore I was asking if it’s in the Constitution if one person can own two teams. If it’s not, then good for Clayden.
    One person can own more than one team in the GMHL.
    Someone asked a few months ago why Clayden got fined for violating the NOJHL Constitution? Can anyone from the league answer this?

    1. I didn’t say Beauchamp got served, that was NBT1975.

      I also didn’t say Clayden owned the Trappers. I said he was paying the bills to keep them afloat.

      Beauchamp bought the Trappers from Clayden during the off-season, that I know. What I don’t know is if terms of the deal have been met by Beauchamp.

      What I have been told — by a lawyer — is that IF Beauchamp is in default of the purchase agreement, ownership of the Trappers would rightfully revert back to Clayden.

  16. I didn’t say Beauchamp got served, that was NBT1975. —-“I addressed my post to both of you” I was trying to answer both of your posts.

    I also didn’t say Clayden owned the Trappers. I said he was paying the bills to keep them afloat. —-“I am not accusing you of saying that either”. ” I was speculating since he was paying their bills and one trade seemed one sided.”

    Beauchamp bought the Trappers from Clayden during the off-season, that I know. What I don’t know is if terms of the deal have been met by Beauchamp.
    —–“If this is the case then why did all the players go to Espy?” you buy the franchise, you get the players; you buy in, pay the league fee, you start from scratch.

    What I have been told — by a lawyer — is that IF Beauchamp is in default of the purchase agreement, ownership of the Trappers would rightfully revert back to Clayden. —–“I was told that Beauchamp bought the dormant franchise from the league office; the one vacated by the Soo Indians when they left the NOJHL”

    1. And I was just clarifying that it wasn’t me, since you addressed your post to two of us. As for anything else, I was just clarifying, didn’t think you were “accusing” me.

    2. I have seen the purchase agreement between Beauchamp and Clayden, just so you know.

      Not sure who the Soo Eagles (not Soo Indians) franchise went to, Espanola perhaps?

    3. The players followed coach Tom McCarthy…. I have never seen such strong bonds between players and coach. As for the trade I think both teams addressed issues at hand. Now that you know, at the time of the trade, NBT knew there was no future unless they put up some goals to get some wins to try and put some fans in the seats. If they couldn’t save this season Beauchamp wouldn’t have had another. Hope that helps explain the trade as opposed to calling shenanigans.

  17. Randy:

    Prediction: Soo & KL meet in League finals and Gold Miners win in 6 games. KL just too fast for the Soo boys!

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