NOJHL changes the way to go

June 19, 2024

Simply put, this makes sense. One division instead of two means the best eight teams in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League will make the playoffs effective the 2024-2025 season. The NOJHL’s playoff format of the previous two years was seriously flawed in a one-sided way.

Under the prior set up, the top four teams in each of the six member West Division and East Division sides made the playoffs. But the fourth place team in the West Division missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons with records that were much, much, better than the no. 4 seed team in the East Division that made the playoffs.

Both times it was the Soo Eagles of the West Division who were decidedly better than laggards from the East Division.

During the 2022-2023 season, the Eagles finished in fifth place in the West Division and missed the playoffs despite putting up 57 points from a record of 26-27-5. By comparison, the French River Rapids finished fourth in the East Division with a mere 21 points — 36 fewer than the Eagles — from a record of 9-46-3. In fact, the 26 wins that the Eagles of the West Division posted were three more than the bottom three teams in the East Division combined for.

The 2023-2024 season proved more of the same for the Eagles, who actually improved to 69 points from a record of 33-22-3 but still finished fifth and missed the playoffs in the West Division. Meanwhile, the Iroquois Falls Storm finished fourth and made the playoffs in the East Division with a meagre 35 points — 34 less than the Eagles — from a record of 16-39-3.

Thus, the move by the NOJHL to go to one division of 12 for the ’24-25 season with the top eight teams making the playoffs.

NOJHL commissioner Rob Mazzuca commented on the new playoff format to Hockey News North.

“It is better for the league, better for the fans, better for the players, better for all concerned,” relayed Mazzuca.

The veteran commissioner also noted that the reduction in regular season games from 58 to 52 effective the ’24-25 season is, in his estimation, “a better way to go.

“Less games allows for more time for development in the form of more practices. There will also be less travel during the week, which is critical. It may not a perfect balanced schedule but it is more towards a balance than before,” Mazzuca relayed to Hockey News North.

What you think about “NOJHL changes the way to go”

  1. The league for sure needed the change especially for playoffs but it may hurt some smaller teams that don’t have the big sponsors or have lost their potential main sponsor with places like a mill closure. This could hurt a place like Espanola having to spend big dollars for more trips to places like Hearst. Time will tell if some teams fall by the wayside due to this.

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