I was in Toronto — my son was called to the bar by the Law Society of Upper Canada — when the calm within the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League turned a bit windy.
Just a few days after agreeing to return as NOJHL commissioner for a fifth season, Robert Mazzuca changed his mind and tendered his resignation.
Apparently — if not conclusively — the man who oversaw unprecedented relocation, return and expansion of the NOJHL to 12 teams, saw something in the future that he didn’t like.
To be sure, as we have noted before, Mazzuca has a way of being a step ahead of the others.
What caused Mazzuca to accept an offer to return as NOJHL commissioner only to abruptly step down?
Well, it couldn’t be about money.
Afterall, at the league’s annual general meeting last week, NOJHL governors had voted to more than double Mazzuca’s base salary from $30,000 to just over $65,000.
Quite clear, no doubt, this was not about the money.
When I got back home to Sault Ste. Marie from Toronto on Wednesday, there were multiple messages related to the commissioner’s resignation awaiting me — including one from Mazzuca himself.
We talked for an hour — off the record.
Between the two of us — his words, not mine — Mazzuca told me why he had a change of heart and opted not to stay on as NOJHL commissioner.
And unless he decides to go public and disclose the reasons for his departure, what Mazzuca told me will remain between us.
Without question, Mazzuca leaves the NOJHL in much-better shape than he found it. And I think that even his detractors will admit as much.
As for those detractors, Mazzuca had a few of them as NOJHL commissioner.
Heck, we all have our detractors, though.
For instance, within the NOJHL, I know who likes me, who tolerates me and who can’t stand me.
As an example of the latter, I have been told by others that Timmins Rock president Scott Marshall doesn’t like me. But the day I let a guy like Marshall affect the way I do business is the day I go out of business.
As for Mazzuca, I get the sense that he felt his efforts in building the NOJHL into what it has become were not appreciated by enough of a majority of the governors.
It’s been said here before and it will be said again — Mazzuca is a very-intelligent man who knows of what he speaks and can back up what he says.
What does the hockey future hold for Mazzuca?
For now, he still has his position within the Ontario Hockey Federation on its junior council.
Looking ahead, he can parlay the good reputation that he has gained as NOJHL commissioner into another management position somewhere within the game.
Maybe he’ll even buy his own team and micro-manage it into success along the same lines that he did with the NOJHL as a league. I mean, if you can run a league well, you should be able to operate a team in the same manner.
At any rate, I do happen to know what Mazzuca’s immediate plans are now that he is no longer NOJHL commissioner.
That’s right, Mazzuca did have a few words to say that weren’t off the record.
“I am going fishing,” he said.
So, who and what are next for the NOJHL?
The NOJHL is advertising for a new commissioner.
Whoever gets the job will inherit a league that has the appearances of being in good shape from Sault Ste. Marie in the West to Kirkland Lake in the East.
Whoever gets the job will also inherit a few team reps — one in particular — who define the term backstabber.
In a positive sense, the NOJHL appears tidier and cleaner than it has been in years — even if it still has its unkempt, untidy, greasy areas.
The good of the NOJHL far outweighs the bad.
This is a league of good owners, good managers and good coaches who are good people.
This is also a league that now finds itself looking to replace a good leader.