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.
Maybe everything is and will be okay.
Then again, maybe not.