Falcons may fly away
The Golden Horseshoe Conference of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League could be losing one of its most storied franchises.
The St. Catharines Falcons are one of 15 GOJHL.Inc teams — and the only team from the Golden Horseshoe — who have proposed a plan to play in their own separate conference for the 2018-19 season.
Under the proposal, the Falcons would play in a division with Kitchener, Waterloo, Elmira, Listowel, Stratford and Cambridge, while the other division would consist of Leamington, Chatham, LaSalle, Sarnia, Strathroy, Lambton Shores, St. Thomas and St. Marys. Those two divisions would make up one conference.
The third division would play in a separate conference and be made up of the remaining Golden Horseshoe teams — Welland, Thorold, Niagara Falls, Fort Erie, Pelham, Lockport and Hamilton — along with London from the West and Brampton and Brantford from the Midwest.
There would no interlocking games between the conferences and the winners of each conference would meet for the Sutherland Cup.
It is a radical departure from the status quo.
“The 15 teams that have a particular concept or philosophy that binds them have petitioned to operate as a 15-team conference within the OHA (Ontario Hockey Association) in the junior B category,” said Curtis Clairmont, president and director of hockey operations of the Waterloo Siskins, who is also a member of board of directors of the GOJHL.Inc.
Clairmont was in St. Catharines Friday to announce the 2018 Showcase Tournament which will take place Sept. 7-9 at the Seymour Hannah Sports Complex.
Falcons president Jim McConnell is well aware the potential move is a calculated gamble.
“We believe in the vision of the GOJHL.Inc and essentially feel it would be a more competitive league,” he said.
The original petition was denied by the OHA. The ruling has been appealed to the Ontario Hockey Federation.
“We’re waiting and hoping to see how that comes out,” Clairmont said. “Right now, we have two potential schedules. One is a 15-team schedule that engages that group within two conferences, a Western and Eastern. And then another that has all 25 teams all from the same schedule.”
Clairmont admits time is quickly becoming an issue, with training camps already underway.
“We’re waiting for them to tell us when they are going to hear the appeal,” he said.
Clairmont said one of the main issues for the proposed realignment is a difference in philosophy.
“The group of 15 want to continue the path we established in 2015 when we incorporated as 27 teams and became GOJHL. Inc.,” he said. “The whole idea was to pool resources and to a great degree follow what has become the best practices of Hockey Canada across the country. Leagues have operational control and their own infrastructure to promote the players and their franchises. That is the model across the country.
“When the GOJHL.Inc pools resources to hire a commissioner and hire conveners to improve the type of exposure for the community and for our players, and to enhance their experience in junior B hockey, that is what we want to continue. That is what binds the 15 teams.”
Clairmont did not want to venture a guess as to why other members of the GOJHL don’t feel the same way.
“It’s better to ask them for their rationale.”
Clairmont feels precedent is on their side.
“One of the main reasons we believe it is a fair request is five years ago, the Golden Horseshoe Conference requested to separate and operate autonomously from the GOJHL and were granted that by the OHA. That is one of the compelling reasons we put it forward. At that time that group had some particular reasons for doing it, and we have some particular reasons why we want to remain as a group of 15.”
Should the realignment occur, it would mean the end of long-time regional rivalries for the Falcons with the likes of the Canucks and Blackhawks.
“Time will tell. We think from a competitive level it will (result in larger crowds), but it may take time to develop. We think, in the long run, it will be stronger crowds,” McConnell said.
“There was a lot (of soul searching). We spent a lot of hours in our local board meetings discussing it. There is significantly more travel and more costs associated with a coach bus versus a school bus, and time constraints for coaches and directors. It’s pretty significant.”
Should the appeal be turned down or not heard soon, the things could return to the status quo for next season.
“That would probably be the fall-back position at this time,” McConnell said. “There are other options and we’ll have to come together as the group of 15 and talk about next steps at that point
“We’ve tried to put together parallel tasks so we can push buttons A, B or C.”
This year’s Showcase will feature 18 teams, including Welland, Thorold and Niagara Falls. It is not known whether the games will count as regular-season games as in the past.
“It will depend on a number of different factors, but ultimately the OHA will decide as to whether they decide for points or not. Historically they have,” Clairmont said. “We’ve had some division amongst some of the teams are far as their vision for how we are going to operate within the junior B category. Some of that has spilt over into the scheduling of this event.”
2018 Showcase Event
FRIDAY, SEPT. 7
St. Thomas vs. St. Catharines, (Rink 1)
Komoka vs. Thorold (Rink 4)
SATURDAY, SEPT. 8
Kitchener vs. Chatham, (Rink 1)
Cambridge vs. St. Mary’s, (Rink 2)
Elmira vs. Strathroy, (Rink 3)
Waterloo vs. Welland, (Rink 3)
Listowel vs. Leamington, (Rink 1)
LaSalle vs. Niagara Falls, (Rink 2)
Sarnia vs. St. Catharines, (Rink 1)
Stratford vs. St. Thomas, (Rink 2)
SUNDAY, SEPT. 9
St.Mary’s vs. Thorold, (Rink1)
Komoka vs. Kitchener, (Rink 2)
Chatham vs. Waterloo, (Rink 1)
Leamington vs. Stratford, (Rink 2)
Welland vs. Sarnia, (Rink 1)
LaSalle vs. Listowel, (Rink 2)
Strathroy vs. Cambridge, (Rink 1)
Niagara Falls vs. Elmira, (Rink 1)
On the right side of our web site, you will notice a yellow SUPPORT US button.
We are asking anyone who finds value in our work and is able to financially help us to click on the button and contribute whatever amount you feel is appropriate and can afford. There is no set amount. Any amount is appreciated.
The funds collected will be used to enhance and offset the expenses of running the web site.