What’s next for the NOJHL?

June 25, 2015

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.

What you think about “What’s next for the NOJHL?”

  1. Good read RR! … I was waiting to here what you had to say on this … Any idea who the new Commish will be?

  2. Mazzuca Saga

    Hopefully things will work out in the “life after the NOJHL” for former Commissioner Mazzuca. I’ve followed this league since roughly the 2010-11 season after I had played my last games in junior hockey and I can say that indeed this league has been left in great shape and has progressed over the years thanks to Mazzuca (and Co).

    Now, am I skeptical of some of the newer and one “historic” franchise entering the 2015-16 season? Yes. Who wouldn’t be? But I see early enthusiasm from all organizations and if this early enthusiasm carries momentum into the 2015-16 season, then hey, it proves me wrong in some ways. Which I am hoping will happen.

    It will be interesting to follow this story over the next little while. The obvious questions will arise about who will appointed? What does the NOJHL need out of this new leader? Does this newly appointed leader get that sparkling salary or will there be draw backs?… Many questions will come about. That’s just the name of the game. If you don’t like it, you’re in the wrong business. As I said, it will be an interesting saga to follow. I hope for the best.

    Social Media, New/Old Teams, NOJHLand Test

    I’ve also seen on Twitter that many teams have started pushing out their “hey we have camp” tweets, which is great to see. I like the enthusiasm from the newer camps; French River, Espanola, Timmins Rock, and Rayside-Belfour – who I think brings a nice little “throwback” attitude to the party. Winners of the Copeland-McNamara Cup in 1974, 1984, and going on an absolute rampage from 1996-2002 (plus winning the Dudley Hewitt in 1997, 2000, and 2002) – I mean, talk about a northern force. Hopefully the organization can rekindle their magic from those past years and hopefully the newer organizations catch fire too. My sleeper pick for this year would have to be the Rapids. I love my fishing.

    I think as a league, this year will be a not only a test for the players who will have to play out a very intense and high octane schedule. This will also have some straining tests on GMs, coaches, and various other staff members of each club. This is a true test for literally every single person in this league during 2015-16. I can’t wait to watch it unfold.

    Top 5 Camps to Watch

    1. Soo Thunderbirds – Champs built for this year? So last year was just for fun? Should be interesting. However, everyone wants to beat the top dog (or bird) the following season. With the move to the Rankin, hopefully home games will have a better atmosphere.

    2. Kirkland Lake Gold Miners – Something’s brewing in Miner Country, I feel it. I just don’t quite know what it is yet.

    3. Cochrane Crunch – Great first year in the NOJHL. Crunchland is for real and a will be a force this year. The town has bought into the team and it’s players. The Timmy’s barn will be rocking this year.

    4. Powassan Voodoos – Showed spunk in 2014-15. Let’s hope they keep flight in 2015-16.

    5. Timmins Rock – Great management group in Timmins. “We will rock you” by Queen comes to mind. I don’t think their management personal will let this team have a bad year. Out of the “new teams” during the 2015-16 season, I see the Rock shifting some eyes their way.

  3. I think at the end of the day there will be an announcement of where Mazzuca ends up in the hockey world.

  4. Have it run BY THE OWNERS. Without being able to vote for yourself take a league wide vote and the Owner with the most votes will become the mediator in any meeting and make the final decision if there is a dispute. Every decision now gets voted on and have one of your many paid execs, who seem to do nothing at times, handle all disciplinary actions (He can even sheriff Shanny it LOL). This way it would save on the cost of the Commish and will help teams be able to treat their players better financially (Not saying they don’t treat them awesome now, it just will be even better)

    I am just a nobody so if this is so far fetched …… just disregard this post 🙂

  5. Inttresting that Mr. Mazzuca accepted the new contract and then resigned. My geuss is that there were major diffrences with some of the new Owners that he felt could not be resolved. We have not seen the last of Mr. Mazzuca is my geuess. As Randy says the man has a good reputation and has proved himself in Management.

  6. No one is ir-replaceible but as old RR says he (Mazzucca) was a good leader who led the NOJHL to where the League sits now with 12 Teams.
    Good Luck to him and Good Luck in the search for a new Comissh.
    I know RR well and he is to smart to take the job LoL.
    Also RR just wondering if you and Scotty Marshall are going for a Beer some time soon LoL.

  7. Anyone remember the CIHL? Seemed like a good idea at the time…..This is what I see with the expansion to 12 teams – there will be winners and losers financially and it will depend on how much money the owners of the smaller market teams are willing to loose. The pay to play model may save them a bit of cash, but in the long run if there are no bodies in the seats things will not be successful. Local talent usually means a bigger draw and there are just not that many kids continuing to play hockey into their late teens……..12 teams is too much too fast….time will tell.

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