Two divisions or three?

May 17, 2015

As the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League is poised to expand to 12 teams — the Espanola Express and Michigan Soo Eagles are awaiting governing-body approval — division alignment will become a priority item.

Does the NOJHL stick with two divisions — with six teams in each — or does it move to a three-division set up?

To be sure, a four-team, three-division format would significantly decrease travel costs in a league where keeping budgets in line is an ongoing concern.

In a four-team, three-division scenario, an unbalanced schedule could be worked out so the 52-game regular season would remain intact.

For example, teams in each division could play one another 12 times, which adds up to 36 games. Teams would then crossover to play the other eight clubs twice each for a total of 16 games — thus 52 matches in all.

As for the playoffs, the top teams in each division along with the club with the fourth-best overall record would get an opening-round bye.

I am not sure how much support there would be among team governors for the three-division format.

But in a league where costs have been rising over the past few years, a three-division format with a significantly-unbalanced schedule could be a way to keep the operating budget in line.

There are many costs that come with operating a team in the NOJHL, including paying league staff that includes commissioner Robert Mazzuca, administration officer Hector Seguin, technical and education director Chris May, communications director Tom Annelin, executive director Ted Magee et al.

And by the way, does anyone know what the executive director does and why the NOJHL needs one?

Just curious.

At any rate, back to the four-team, three-division concept, it could play out as follows.

EAST DIVISION: Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, Cochrane Crunch, Iroquois Falls Eskimos, Timmins Rock.

CENTRAL DIVISION: Powassan Voodoos, French River Rapids, Rayside-Balfour Canadiens, Espanola Express.

WEST DIVISION: Elliot Lake Wildcats, Blind River Beavers, Soo Thunderbirds, Soo Eagles.

What you think about “Two divisions or three?”

  1. Good points altho teams in there own division might get tired of playing each other so many times it is good for the financial well being and the bottom line of all of the 12 teams.

  2. Randy
    I like your thoughts on a three division set up however with 12 teams in the league a much better format so that you see all teams more would by two divisions, six in each play in your own division six times, threee home three away and four times against other division, two home and two away. Thirty games in your own division and 24 games in other division for 54 games.
    If there is a couple of weaker teams then the fans would not get tired of them.
    Playoffs could then be straight four in each division with no cross over until the finals.

  3. You would have 16 games in between to break up the divional play enough to spread things out. I think its a great idea.

  4. Three divisions is o.k but as an Espanola citizen I would rather have the three closest teams,by area, in our division. You have that natural Espanola/ Elliot Lake rivalry.

  5. I would add Rayside- Balfour & Espanola too the Western Division and Powassan & French River with the east division and have a two division league, Fans will get tired of always watching the same teams in a four division. I would cross over in the first round of the playoff etc….1st in West Vs 6th in EAST or 1st vs. 4th. Make things interesting for the Fans.

  6. 2 divisions 6 teams… You play your own division 8 times (40 games) and the other division 2 times (12 games) for the playoffs you do it nhl style top 3 teams in each division plus 2 wildcard teams

  7. For as long as I have followed the NOJHL, I can’t recall a season with the luxury of 12 teams. My vote would be for two divisions of 6 for the sake of fan interest. In three divisions of 4, if you have a weak sister like last season’s Beavers, seeing them so often could weaken attendance. Its also an opportunity to rectify my old bug-a-boo about all teams making the playoffs. Points earned in the regular season have more long-term value if every team does not automatically make the playoffs. I’m well aware of the counter-argument that each team on a tight budget needs the extra playoff revenue, but earning a playoff spot instead of being handed one makes everybody motivated to do the best they can and also gives fans the extra excitement of their team fighting for a spot.

    1. The NOJHL is finally geographical set up so that all teams have 3 opponents close by (except Powassan who is in no man’s land). IMO the only way to go is the 3 Division format as it significantly decreases costs for the majority of teams. Some fans may not like seeing certain opponents so often, however with travel costs increasing every season this the only way to go. I can’t see many owners voting against something that is going to save them a significant amount of money.

  8. I agree with Armand5 wholeheartedly. Playing 3 teams 12 times each would be incredibly boring from a fan AND player perspective. What a waste of having a 12 team league when you’d virtually ignore 8 of the teams! Plus the opportunity of imbalance, where the third best team in one division might well be the best team in another division, is a real drawback for competitive balance. 2 x 6 is, by far, the best format, which works really well in the CCHL. You pay the 5 team in your division 8 times, then the 6 on the other side twice = 52 games.

  9. As a matter of record, teams in the old six-team National Hockey League played one another 14 times a season. Wonder if the Original Six fans were bored?

  10. I’d selfishly prefer two divisions for more variety. But I understand the three division benefit

  11. Three divisions would be a colossal disappointment for Espanola fans. Two teams within an hour’s drive in Blind River and Elliot Lake and we’d see them once? Go there once? Yet we’d get Powassan how many times? Not to mention we just spent a season watching the same team over and over. And would a struggling team like Blind River not appreciate the dozens of fans that follow Espanola on close road trips? An extra 40+ tickets and canteen revenue several times a season, or just once?

    1. Brian P., you are certainly right in saying a 3 Division League would not benefit Espanola and would certain have some disadvantages to it. However a 3 Division League would likely benefit 10 of the 12 teams. Travel costs are a huge issue with teams in the North and a 3 Division League finally helps address this issue. The NOJHL needs to make a decision on this asap as it significantly impacts teams and budgets. Teams have a very good idea what ice time, equipment, staffing, league fee’s, officiating and other fee’s will cost, however travel costs could vary by $20,000 for some teams depending on which Division alignment the NOJHL decides to pick. It would certainly cost French River an extra $20,000 in travel costs if they are placed in the east divison which many people are suggesting. The only way for a 2 Division alignment to work is to have 7 Teams in the West and 5 in the East. We all know that 6 and 6 looks better and the math is much easier to calculate, however I think this scenario would keep more people happy. Many Leagues have unbalanced divisions/conferences, one being the NHL which has a 16/14 Conference split. As well one will certainly be stronger then the other at times which happens in the NHL and NBA as well.

      1. The big thing is I would think that Blind River would benefit,and to some extent, Elliot Lake would benefit from having Espanola in a division with them as Espanola fans travel quite a bit to games that are within an hour drive. Also Rayside will see Espanola fans at the games when on the road.

  12. Don`t mind the 2 div. but would rather the 3 div. for economics reasons. I like the way Mr Harrison layed it out .Makes sense.

  13. Randy,

    Instead of taking a shot at the Executive Director you should ask him his role and what his job entails. I strongly doubt any of the members of the NOJHL staff are in it for the money…

      1. Is there anyway we could find out what type of money these guys make. Should this information not be publicized?

          1. I did see that, and now know where around Mazzuca makes however I feel this should be public knowledge as this is where the parents money is going. Na im curious to what the other make

  14. The Original Six era was legendary, but until expansion, they didn’t have an option but to play each other 12 times. But the 2015/16 NOJHL does. I fear the 3 division format will disappoint fans and dissuade prospective players. It’s just a bad idea on a number of levels.

  15. Cpt,

    It’s an idea, no more, no less. A bad idea? The NOJHL governors will make the call whether to go with three divisions or stay with two. I don’t think of it as a bad idea, an exploratory one perhaps.

  16. Bring the season up to 56 games

    3 divisions, play division teams 8 times = 24
    then play the two other divisions 4 times each for 16, x 2 divisions = 32

    bigger expense, but couple more home gates as well and I think that opposition variety will bring up home game attendance.

    I love hockey and plan on travelling to the neighbour communities but 12 games is simply too much and I for one would be more inclined to skip a few of those, and would be less likely to follow our team to one of those divisional rivals.

    Finally, although i purchased my season tickets, commitments mean i cant make every game, it would suck to miss a game when a team from another division comes to town, that may mean you never got to watch that team all year. Soo is a great example, i missed their first visit, but thankfully caught their second game here. Great team, league champs and dudley champs, i woulda hated not seeing them play at least once this year.

    my 2 cents

  17. Eskisfan brings up a good point with teams potentially only visiting once. Espanola is a town of shift workers. Things come up anywhere. If a team only visits once, pretty good chance there are some teams fans will not get to see. The footprint of the league isn’t so large that teams shouldn’t be able to swing a few road trips. I still would very much prefer to see a 2 division league though. It doesn’t benefit every team, as has been pointed out, but if you cut the footprint of the league in half and teams still can’t survive that unbalanced schedule, then they likely aren’t around for the long haul anyway.

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