There are two specific names and one franchise that spring to mind to someone with some sense of Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League history.
The individuals are erstwhile commissioner Joe Drago — who now serves in the prestigious role as Hockey Canada chairman — and legendary mainstay David Harrison, who remains part of the NOJHL as a valued statistician and historian.
The 76-year old Harrison first became involved with the venerable league when it was launched back in 1962 and he has carried on like the loyal soldier that he is.
Team-wise, there is one franchise in particular that stirs the hockey writer’s memorybank — Rayside-Balfour.
To be sure, Rayside-Balfour has deep, historic roots that also date back to 1962.
And while Rayside’s previous tenure as an NOJHL franchise ended in 2005, it will return again in 2015.
Yes, history does have a way of repeating itself.
As was first reported by HockeyNewsNorth.com on April 15, the Rayside-Balfour Canadians will assume the identity of the Sudbury Nickel Barons effective the 2015-2016 season.
The relocation is of little consequence from a travel standpoint as Rayside-Balfour is part of the City of Greater Sudbury, which previously housed the aforementioned, Copper Cliff-based, Nickel Barons.
But having Rayside-Balfour back in the NOJHL does restore history to the league while retaining a presence in Greater Sudbury.
As the NOJHL advanced levels from Jr. B to Jr. A, what eventually became the Rayside-Balfour franchise played under various monikers from 1962 until 2005.
The team was known as the Garson-Falconbridge Native Sons from 1962-1969, the Chelmsford Canadiens from 1969-1973, the Rayside-Balfour Canadiens from 1973-1995 and the Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats from 1995-2005.
In all, the franchise won 10 NOJHL/Northern Ontario Hockey Association championships and took home Dudley-Hewitt Cup, Central Canada titles as the Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats in 1997, 2000 and 2002.
Want more Rayside-Balfour history?
In the final season of the Rayside-Balfour Canadiens existence back in 1994-1995, Mike Mooney Jr. was the head coach, his brother Matthew played on the team and their father, Mike Sr., was the owner.
Now — 20 years later — Mooney Jr. is the owner of the relocated Rayside-Balfour entry that will be called the Canadians rather than Canadiens.
The Mooney family ties to Rayside-Balfour also include the owner’s son, Ryan, who will play for the Canadians as a second-year defenceman in 2015-2016 after scoring 7 goals, 29 assists, 36 points in 56 games as a 1998 birth-year rookie for the erstwhile Nickel Barons in 2014-2015.
And there’s more history.
Canadians general manager Keane Cronin once played for Rayside as did head coach Jason Young.
Little wonder that NOJHL commissioner Rob Mazzuca has officially remarked: “The NOJHL and Rayside-Balfour has a storied past and history and as a league we could not be more excited to see its return.”