By Brandon Sudeyko
The proposed ‘Caledonia Rule’ is raring to go just as the Sutherland Cup is about to get underway.
Yes, the Sutherland Cup has begun with the 3 conference winners and the wildcard selection. It is the Jr B… equivalent to the Memorial Cup in Major Junior… well no, the Sutherland Cup is like the Dudley Hewitt Cup in the OJHL or the Bogart Cup for the CCHL… except there is no National tournament to crown the ultimate winner. They are just one of the 5 best Jr B teams in the country.
Within the Sutherland Cup, there is the Caledonia Corvairs, Stratford Cullitons, London Nationals and the Waterloo Siskins. Caledonia v Waterloo and Stratford v London before the winner of each series face off for the title.
As you can imagine the ‘Caledonia Rule’ is named after yep… the Caledonia ProFit Corvairs. And what does this rule pertain to? A cap on 20 year olds. Why is this rule named after the Back 2 Back Sutherland Cup champs? This years version of the Corvairs has Sixteen 20 year olds. Yes, 16. A big number. But a rarity. Sure this year, a few other teams are carrying double digit 20 year olds on their roster: Guelph, Leamington and St. Catharines are the other team with 10 or more.
But starting in 2016/17 the limit is 9, with OHL OA cast offs who never played in the GOJHL counting as 2 cards. Therefore you can only have 5 max. 4 former OHLers and a Jr A or Jr B OA for 5 total. You can play with the math however you would like, but is this rule a little too late?
Sure you can look at Caledonia going for a three-peat and saying something has to change. You can say that the GOJHL is very boring because of the Corvairs. I don’t know if that statement holds any weight, but I do find the GOJHL boring, but I will get into the reasons why later, and it may be a different reason than you think.
Back to the 20 year old dilemma. Is this rule too late? Is this rule not needed?
In 2014/15, the Sutherland Champions only had 7 Overage players on their roster. The 2014 Champs… only had eight 20 year olds on their roster.
It appears that this is a reactionary rule just based on stopping the Corvairs from going for Four Championships… But if you look around the league… others have been using 20 years olds to stay competitive. As much as Caledonia has? No, most teams carry around 5 over age players. Enough to stay competitive and enough to help develop younger players into either quality Jr B players or more, help develop them to Jr A or Major Junior.
From a completely outside appearance this is a great rule. The GOJHL needs an identity because it is the place where overage players go for one last year of ‘glory’ before they have to face the ‘real world’ so to speak.
Next year Buffalo returns to the league and we are back with 27 teams. 3 Conferences of 9, hopefully they come up with 4 conferences to even the odds and make the final 4 for the Sutherland Cup all the Conference Winners.
But the GOJHL has to embrace what it is, a developmental league for the OJHL and other Jr A leagues in Ontario. Whether out east in the CCHL or up north in the NOJHL. Heck you are a developmental league for future OHLers who need that one year of Jr hockey close to home before lacing up for their draft year on one of the biggest stages in Jr hockey, the OHL.
If you scale back 20 year olds per team, you share the wealth across the league, in theory at least. Just because Caledonia can no longer sign So many, you can now have neighbouring teams, Ancaster, Welland, Pelham, Niagara Falls, Brampton etc pick up the excess of 20 year olds and elevate their team and the league as a whole. If you are not developing younger players in your feeder system of a league, then you are doing a big disservice to those in the league. Yes, the GOJHL may be the highest level most of the players get to, but for those who need a year or two before jumping to the next, make the league as competitive as possible and develop more players and earn more scholarships.
For a league without a face, this is a great way to make a statement. Show that moving forward, this league is focusing on developing players, not just for your league, but to move on to higher levels.
Even if most of the Franchises they should have a Jr A designation already. I am not here to debate that… yet.
The next step for the GOJHL is to get the 16 year old player limit raised. If the OJHL won’t do it, then the GOJHL should. Think about the stepping stones that it can lead to for a lot of players who were drafted to the OHL from Minor Midget and more playing in a Jr sytem compared to some great Midget programs and some… not so great programs around the province.
The rule is a great one, maybe it is titled wrong, but if they can open up the amount of 16 year olds they are allowed to register on a team, then the GOJHL takes a step further to competing with the CCHL2 which I actually find exciting… and that I will get into later.