SUDBURY, Ont. – While one Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League season has come to a close, preparations are already underway for the upcoming campaign.
LEAGUE MEETINGS: The NOJHL’s Spring Congress meetings were held June 7-8 in Sudbury .
Among the topics of discussion were finalizing plans for the new season, coaches and general manager meetings, the formulation of the 2017-18 game schedule, the 2018 playoff format, updating league rules and regulations, the NOJHL Showcase and other league-related matters.
COMPETING CLUBS: Once again the NOJHL will feature 12 clubs that will take to the ice for the 2017-18 season.
The league’s East Division will feature the defending champion Powassan Voodoos, Cochrane Crunch, Timmins Rock, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, French River Rapids and the Hearst Lumberjacks, who will be making their NOJHL debut after acquiring the for Iroquois Falls Eskis franchise.
The NOJHL West meanwhile remains the same as the Soo Thunderbirds, Blind River Beavers, Elliot Lake Wildcats, Espanola Express, Soo Eagles and Rayside-Balfour Canadians are all back.
OFFICIATING DEVELOPMENT CAMPS: The NOJHL’s officiating staff is already hard at work preparing for the 2017-18 season.
As part of the preparations for the upcoming campaign, the league will be holding four Officiating Development Camps over the course of the next two months, which will be run by the NOJHL Officiating Committee, in conjunction with and support of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association.
The committee is comprised of new director of officials Stacy Jackson, supervisor Matt Davie, supervisor Bryce Kulik, NHL officiating manager Dan McCourt, NOHA Director Of Officials Glen Campbell and NOJHL Commissioner Robert Mazzuca.
The dates of those events is as follows:
Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.: June 16 – 17
Sudbury: June 23 – 24
North Bay: July 14 – 15
Timmins: July 21 – 22
A couple of other officiating camps are also being planned with the dates and locations of those to be announced once finalized.
The NOJHL would also like to recognize Darren Corcoran and Matthew Walters who both officiated at the most-recent Dudley-Hewitt Cup in Trenton, Ont., while Kyle Lekun worked the RBC Cup in Cobourg and was selected to officiate in the championship game.
SCHEDULE: The NOJHL is expected to announce its 2017-18 regular season schedule within the coming days.
Each of the 12 member clubs will once again play a 56-game slate.
REGULAR SEASON: Regular season play is expected to commence in the second week of September and is expected to conclude by mid-March.
SHOWCASE: Once again included in the regular season schedule will be the NOJHL Showcase.
This year’s event will run Oct. 10-11 at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex in Sudbury.
All 12 league teams will play twice during the course of the event with all games counting towards the overall standings.
Last year’s NOJHL Showcase featured over 50 scouts in attendance from the NCAA, CIS, OHL and other major junior leagues along with the NHL.
PLAYOFFS: 2018 NOJHL postseason play will feature the same format as this past year.
The top five clubs in each division will advance to the playoffs.
Round 1 action between the fourth and fifth place teams in each division will both be best-of-three affairs.
All remaining rounds will feature best-of-seven series.
EASTERN CANADA JR. A CHALLENGE: The NOJHL will once again be sending an all-star team to compete in the Eastern Canada Jr. A Challenge Cup in November.
The host site for the event will be announced in the coming weeks as will the number of competing leagues and teams.
The Team NOJHL management and coaching staff as well as its player roster will be announced at a later date.
COMMITMENTS: Well over 20 players from the 2016-17 NOJHL season have already committed to colleges and university in both Canada and the U.S. where they will continue their education and play hockey for their respective schools.
A current list of all the commitments can be found at: nojhl.com/commitments-2017-2018.
ALUMNI: Congratulations are in order to former NOJHL and Soo Thunderbirds goaltender Mario Culina whose Windsor Spitfires side captured the Memorial Cup.
The win came against the OHL champion Erie Otters, who featuring another league and Thunderbirds standout in Owen Headrick on defence.
You also have Scott Wray joining the North Bay Battalion of the OHL as an assistant coach after an impressive run as head coach of the Powassan Voodoos.
NOJHL HISTORY: Through the extensive efforts of NOJHL statistician and historian David Harrison as well as webmaster Scott Marshall a major upgrade has been added to NOHL.com highlighting the league’s history since its inception back in the early 1960s.
Through the league website at nojhl.com/about-the-nojhl you’ll find a league history, team and player records, along with individual award recipients and year-by-year standings.
In the coming weeks items such as NOJHL all-star teams and other relevant statistics will be added to the website.
DUDLEY-HEWITT CUP: The Dryden GM Ice Dogs of the Superior International Junior Hockey League will host the 2018 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. A Championship May 1-5 at Dryden Memorial Arena.
The five-day event will feature the NOJHL Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy winners taking on the respective winners of both the Ontario Junior Hockey League, the SIJHL and the host GM Ice Dogs.
Should Dryden repeat as Bill Salonen Cup titlists, then the SIJHL finalist would round out the four-team field.
The NOJHL boasts recent success when a SIJHL-side hosts the DHC with the Soo Thunderbirds claiming the crown the last two times there.
Sault Ste. Marie won the Central Region title back in 2015 in Fort Frances as well as in 2012 in Thunder Bay.
They also had second place finishes in 2006 (Sudbury Jr. Wolves) and 2003 (North Bay Skyhawks).
RBC CUP: Awaiting the Dudley-Hewitt Cup winner will be the 2018 RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A Championship, May 12-20, in Chilliwack, B.C.
The Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL will host the nationals and they will be joined by the winners of the Dudley-Hewitt Cup and Fred Page Cup (Eastern Canada) as well as two representatives from Western Canada.