Peace, harmony and the NOJHL

July 29, 2015

It is late July, all teams are undefeated and tied for first place and no one has a single gripe with the commissioner.

There is peace and harmony in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, at least for now.

With 12 teams and the market cornered from Sault Ste. Marie in the west to Kirkland Lake in the east, the NOJHL is in the best shape it has been in years.

In fact, it may be the most solid it has ever been dating back to its on-again, off-again presence of more than 40 years.

With Robert Mazzuca at the helm as the most-effective, most-influential commissioner since the days of the legendary Joe Drago — who now serves as the chairman of the board of directors for Hockey Canada — the NOJHL will begin play in 2015-2016 with three more teams than it had in 2014-2015.

In fact, it was not that long ago — 2007 to be exact — when the NOJHL operated with just six teams.

At any rate, first pucks of the 2015-2016 season will drop during the second week of September.

Soo Eagles, Soo Thunderbirds, Blind River Beavers, Elliot Lake Wildcats, Espanola Express and Rayside-Balfour Canadians will represent the West Division while East Division members are the French River Rapids, Powassan Voodoos, Iroquois Falls Eskis, Cochrane Crunch, Timmins Rock and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.

Quite clear, no doubt, Mazzuca has put his thumb print on the NOJHL and the league is a better place with him as commissioner.

Mazzuca is in his fifth season as league czar and NOJHL governors showed what they thought of him by asking him back after a dispute earlier this summer that resulted in his brief resignation.

Is Mazzuca liked by all? No.

Is he respected by all? Yes.

The 2015-2016 season will see Mazzuca working alongside a newly-established executive committee that is made up of chairman Scott Marshall of Timmins and division representatives Todd Stencill of Elliot Lake and Jim Taylor of Kirkland Lake.

How well that works remains to be seen, as is the case when anything is in a stage of infancy.

In the end though, someone has to have final say on all matters and in the junior hockey world, power rests with the commissioner.

While it’s true that Mazzuca works for the NOJHL, the same is also true that David Branch works for the Ontario Hockey League but it is he who rules with the iron fist of power.

It showed absolute support for Mazzuca when NOJHL governors voted unanimously to reinstate him as commissioner after he had resigned.

Which us brings us to the peace, harmony — and tranquility — of summer.

Like the weather, enjoy the peace while it is here.

Because the sailing will not always be smooth.

The first time that Mazzuca fines a team or suspends a player, the words used to describe the commissioner will differ.

From “Robbie, he’s a good guy”, the phrase could well change to, “that prick Mazzuca, who does he think he is?”

But that’s okay.

Mazzuca has shown time and time over the years — with examples aplenty — that he can handle the heat and absorb the unflattering name-calling.

He’s a big boy, Mazzuca.

He can talk the talk and then walk the walk.

And then he can take a hit and give one right back.

No hockey world is a perfect one.

But the NOJHL is a better league with Mazzuca than it was without him.

It’s summer time and the living is easy.

But the winds of winter lie ahead and they have of way of becoming nasty at times.

This is the north, though.

It’s a little different up here — and that is mostly a good thing.

The NOJHL, 2015-2016 edition. Coming soon, to 12 arenas nearby.

What you think about “Peace, harmony and the NOJHL”

  1. The peace and harmony for opposing players should be short lived in Blind River; With Daja, Proulx and Pollard on that blueline, no one should be able to stand in front of that Beaver net too long and every one will need to keep their heads up, or they will be taken off. Nice job.

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