It has been well documented how the OJHL has struggled to get to the position that they are in right now. The league went through a large contraction down to 23 teams from the mid thirties and the league now sits at 22 teams, 11 per conference and two divisions, one with 5 and one with 6.
This past holiday season, there was an article that was put out that discussed the league expanding, absorbing two franchises in the GOJHL.
Although that could nicely even things out, 6 teams per division lets take a look at the possibilities of who the league will expand with:
Caledonia: A top franchise in the GOJHL for the last few years, they have a chance to three-peat this year but also currently have 14 Overage players (1995 birth years) on their team and several former OHLers that you normally would not see in the OJHL.
St. Catharines: Another annual powerhouse in the GOJHL that has a longer history of being at the top. The Falcons are generally a breeding ground for the Niagara Ice Dogs but also perennially compete for the Sutherland Cup. This years Falcons squad has 11 overage players.
Brampton: This is a younger franchise to the GOJHL and has not had much success. 42 wins in their first three seasons and currently have 14 wins heading into this weekend. So 56 wins in their 197 franchise games. Now the team has produced some OHL players and developed several Jr A players over the years. What makes this franchise so attractive is that Brampton use to have the Capitals OJHL franchise up until 2012…. When the Bombers were created….
Kitchener: No point talking about this franchise, not coming to the OJHL.
Waterloo: Same as Kitchener
London: See above… Proximity is what makes this situation not work.
Ancaster: Plausible as it is close enough to make Burlington, Hamilton and Buffalo direct division mates. The last 5 seasons as the Stoney Creek Warriors, the team was very competitive and as the Ancaster Avalanche, they have continued to have strong teams.
So how does the new OJHL look with 2 of these franchises in the mix? If you are only looking at proximity, and to be honest you should considering you do not want to make Kingston travel to Sarnia or LaSalle or even to Kitchener, London or Waterloo… then you are left with Brampton and Ancaster.
Brampton leaving the GOJHL may be difficult only because the club would have to up their spending… but then they would get to keep their players rather than have the OJHL ‘poach’ them through development. But consider the cost of travel they have… it may actually go down. Being located in Brampton, you have: Milton, Georgetown, Mississauga, Oakville, Toronto Patriots, Toronto Jr Canadiens and Orangeville all within 30 minutes of travel. 7 of the current 11 franchises in the South West conference are within a half hour of travel. Burlington is 40 minutes away, so is North York and only Buffalo will be over an hour of travel… approx. 120 minutes, depending on border traffic. So Brampton would be a viable franchise to add to the league… and considering the commissioner mentioned that it would be two franchises, you have to look at an Ancaster as being the closest Golden Horseshoe Conference team to the current league and say they would be the best candidate to take in to keep future costs low.
If Ancaster joins, the closest opponent would be Burlington at 25 minutes away. Currently Caledonia is that close to them, and the rest of the division is about an hour away. The same time it would take to get to the farthest opponent in the South West Conference.
So a lot of this makes sense and could really help the league fight the expansion of the ‘outlaw’ Jr A league in town… although the owners do a good enough job of messing that up themselves.
However, what is it that I wrote at the beginning? How about contraction?
Now I am not advocating for specific franchises to shut their doors. But lets look at the league with only 20 teams not 22. It would be more inline to what the OHL is. Not that the OJHL has ever strived to be what the OHL is, and lets face the fact that the OHL is not a perfect league thanks to many obstacles that has been thrown in their way the pat few seasons.
But consider taking away two franchises. I would have initially said Hamilton and Mississauga. But Hamilton moved to a better market in Markham and well… Mississauga is Mississauga. And if you had to take Geography into account, you may have a better argument for Milton. Now Milton is a storied franchise and in the mid 90s won 7 of 9 division titles from 1994-2003 and in the last 9 seasons, the franchise has not finished better than 4th once, finishing 3rd and missing the playoffs 4 times, and this season will be 5 in the last 10 seasons.
Now if you got rid of Mississauga, nobody would probably miss them, there is a lot of history that will die, but that can be said for a lot of OJHL franchises that have been around for over 20 years. If it isn’t championships, or conference titles it is the alumni list. And many clubs have tremendous alumni.
So if you were to choose Mississauga from the South West Conference who would it be from the North East… well to go historically, the Lindsay Muskies have not been a premier franchise in many years. Even though they have new owners this season in former NHLer Jeff Beukeboom and an Uxbridge businessman Dave Knapp. The team hasn’t made the playoffs for three seasons, doesn’t have a long alumni list and is just ‘out of the way’ based on geography.
But again, forget the naming of franchises because you can pick one of many and make a reason.
Getting down to 20 will help build up the talent pool. Think of the 44 players who will have no place to play if two teams contract. Now think of each team taking 2 or 3 of these players and bolstering their 3rd forward line or adding to their bottom D pairing and how much better these clubs will be, how much better the overall competition will be, how much more attention will be directed their way as they have lifted the competitive playing field of this league, and think about how much better the league can focus on players in less markets and help advertise their players so people will be enticed to see them more often.
It is a compelling thought either way. Add two teams and help the one conference, the ‘poorer’ conference become competitive with less travel or contract two teams and raise the talent pool and hope that when the ‘Outlaw’ league comes to those towns, they fail like they probably will anyways and prove that it is truly the players that help make the franchise, and that talent will always win out.