Monthly Archives: February 2012

LATE FEBRUARY IN THE NOJHL

…North Bay Trappers will play host to the 2013 Dudley Hewitt Cup, Central Canada Jr. Hockey Championships. Sudbury Cubs were supposed to play host to the event but they pulled out at last weekend’s Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League monthly meeting. NOJHL governors then voted to give the DHC rights for 2013 to the Trappers.

…Sources say — but the parties involved will not confirm — that the Blind River Beavers could have a new look to their hockey department next season. Should Jim Capy not return as coach and Jim Yardanoff opt to step aside as general manager, it’s expected that Bryan Verreault will take over the dual role as coach and GM of the Beavers. Verreault has a strong and extensive background as former associate coach with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves and erstwhile bench boss with Sudbury’s NOJHL squad.

…I am all for the efforts of commissioner Robert Mazzuca in his attempts to make the NOJHL a safer place for its players. Mazzuca introduced the Concussion Safety Program this season and has not hesitated to hand out league-imposed suspensions on top of the automatic bans for misconduct, game misconduct and match penalties. But I do not agree with Mazzuca’s recent decision to give Soo Eagles defenceman Derek Diaz an eight-game suspension for pushing a Soo Thunderbirds player from behind at the end of last Saturday’s game between the arch-rival teams. To me, Diaz was part of a post-game scrum that included players from both teams and I saw absolutely nothing that warranted an eight-game suspension. And I’m not alone. Even president Albert Giommi and general manager Kevin Cain of the rival Thunderbirds told me they didn’t think Diaz’s actions were cause for an eight-game suspension. I like Mazzuca and have been very supportive of his performance as first-year commish but I am at extreme odds with him over the eight-game sentence he handed Diaz. Every team in the NOJHL has at least one cheap-shot player. Some teams have more. Diaz, in my books, is not a dirty player. He’s a skilled, rugged defenceman and I don’t think he deserves anywhere near an eight-game suspension for what transpired at the end of the most-recent Eagles-Thunderbirds grudge match. In fact, he shouldn’t have been given a match penalty in the first place.

THE NOJHL ON FEBRUARY 15

…What has been a rocky first season for the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League in Kirkland Lake has just got a bit rockier. The new Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, who took over from the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils when they folded just over a month ago, have fired head coach Dave Gillespie. Gillespie had been a positive constant throughout all of the turmoil of the troubled regime of original owner Bob Kasner. But Gillespie was advised on Tuesday by the new Gold Miner ownership that the team would be going in a new direction. Which is fine and well as new owners and new management have the right to hire their own people. But what is not right is that Gillespie allegedly received less than half of the $40,000 salary that he was promised to leave his Southern Ontario home last fall to move to Kirkland Lake and coach the NOJHL team. I have a letter in my possession from Gillespie’s wife, Joanne, that details a number of alleged promises related to salary and accomodations that were made to Gillespie by Kasner that she claims were not kept. For now, all I will say is this: The NOJHL as a league and Kirkland Lake as a franchise needs to take steps to ensure that the Gold Miners are not a continuation of what was a very bad experience with the Blue Devils. I have heard a lot of good things about the folks who are in involved with the Gold Miners and here’s hoping they can make the Kirkland Lake franchise the success that many within NOJHL circles believe it can be.

…As the regular season winds down and the start of the playoffs about three weeks away, one potential matchup that I am anticipating is an East Division series between the Abitibi Eskimos and North Bay Trappers. The two teams are presently in a battle for second place in the East Division and really, aside from Abitibi points machine Marc-Alain Begin, there is not much to choose from between the two teams in taking a close look at what they have and don’t have.

…With five games to play in the regular season, Sudbury Cubs forward Jordan Carroll needs six goals to reach 70 on the season. As 70 goals in today’s hockey is an amazing feat, the NOJHL’s all-time record for goals in a season may never be broken. It was back during the 1983-84 campaign that Rayside-Balfour forward Denis Castonguay piled up 196 points, including 97 goals.

…Is it better to have one very-good veteran goalie or two very-good goalies who are in their first season in the NOJHL? That’s a question I ask myself as I look ahead to a looming playoff series between the Soo Thunderbirds and Soo Eagles. The Thunderbirds boast third-year guy John Kleinhans – who played his first two NOJHL seasons with the Eagles — as their workhorse, first-stringer. The Eagles, on the other hand, have the dandy double dip duo of Luis Puig and Chris Truehl.

JUNIOR HOCKEY SURVIVAL IN NORTH BAY

Their current three-year lease with the City of North Bay and Memorial Gardens expires after the 2011-12 season and the North Bay Trappers are seeking a new long-term deal.

The Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League team shares the city-run Memorial Gardens with the Nipissing University Lakers, who are finishing up their own three-year lease in their third year of existence as a Ontario Universities Athletics hockey team.

Trappers president and general manager Chris Dawson told me that his team hopes to be a part of North Bay and the NOJHL and to play at Memorial Gardens “for years and years to come.”

Let’s hope so.

North Bay has a lengthy junior hockey history at both the Jr. A and Major Jr. levels.

Personally, I can remember watching the Trappers as a grade school kid as far back as 1963 when the high-scoring duo of centre Marty Reynolds and right winger Randy Prior were lighting it up for a North Bay team that was coached by a gentleman by the name of Howie Parker.

At any rate, that was then and this is now and junior teams in North Bay have survived various leagues and the politics of hockey.

Speaking of politics and hockey, it surprises me that no one within the North Bay media has ever seriously questioned a possible conflict of interest that Mayor Al McDonald now has in that he is one of the private investors who launched the hockey program at Nipissing University three years ago and continues to have it in direct competition with the NOJHL Trappers for advertising dollars and fan support at city-run Memorial Gardens.

Oh well, perhaps that is another story for another day, depending on who will be financing the hockey program at Nipissing University after this season. What I have been told by Nipissing University’s manager of integrated marketing communications Lisa Drinkwalter is that the school is committed to its hockey program for the forseeable future.

But back to the Trappers and their quest for junior hockey survival in North Bay.

I’m not from North Bay but I have family who is and we have always thought of the Gateway City as a junior hockey town. And I am quite sure that there are hundreds of folks in North Bay who feel the same way.

By the way, this isn’t about pitting the Junior Trappers against the University hockey team. Rather it’s about stating that North Bay has long been a junior hockey town and that the Trappers should be as big a part of the city as they are of the NOJHL.

No more, no less.