SUDBURY–The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL) announced last Sunday that the Soo Eagles, Espanola Express and French River Rapids have all now been officially accepted and certified at all levels as new members of the NOJHL.
Each of the new member clubs have now all received their approvals from the various governing bodies that were required from the Northern Ontario Hockey Association, Ontario Hockey Federation, Hockey Canada, USA Hockey and the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
With that, the NOJHL is now sanctioned in all areas and will ice 12 teams for the 2015-16 season.
“We at the NOJHL would like to thank all our partners at the NOHA, OHF, Hockey Canada, USA Hockey and CJHL president Kirk Lamb for their efforts and continued support Jr. A hockey in our area,” stated league commissioner Robert Mazzuca.
“All the parties involved worked closely to help facilitate the process and we at the NOJHL wholeheartedly appreciate the efforts of everyone to get us to where we are at today,” added Mr. Mazzuca.
“We look forward to our new expanded 12-team league as we prepare for the upcoming 2015-16 campaign.”
As for the Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan-based Eagles, Espanola and French River, who will play out of the Noelville Arena, they too are all excited to commence play in the NOJHL this upcoming season.
“I would like to thank Mr. Mazzuca, Hockey Canada and USA Hockey for their shared vision of welcoming us back to the NOJHL,” offered Eagles president Ron Lavin.
“We have been in Sault Ste. Marie for five years and have the incredible backing of so many fans, volunteers and the absolute best place to play hockey at the Pullar,” added Mr. Lavin. “We value the impact that we bring to such a great community and appreciate everyone’s support, especially the City of Sault Ste. Marie.”
Soo head coach and general manager Bruno Bragagnolo is also pleased to be returning to the NOJHL.
“The Soo Eagles are very excited and happy in becoming proud members of the NOJHL and keeping junior hockey in Sault Ste. Marie and the vintage Pullar Stadium for all our great fans and sponsors,” says Mr. Bragagnolo.
“There is nothing that can compare to the atmosphere in the Pullar when the Eagles and T-Birds (Soo Thunderbirds) do battle so we are really looking forward to renewing this rivalry,” beamed the Michigan Soo bench boss and GM.
“We know the fans will enjoy the style and quality of play in the NOJHL as it has quickly become one of the stronger leagues in Ontario with its teams doing well at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, winning it two out of past four years,” offered Mr. Bragagnolo.
“The league has great leadership and vision, great owners, great coaches and players so let the puck drop and let’s have some fun,” he added.
Another community back in the NOJHL fold is Espanola with the new-look Express joining the league.
“Our team staff, owners, volunteers, sponsors and especially our fans are extremely excited to have the NOJHL return to our great hockey town of Espanola,” stated Express general manager Chad Clarke.
“The town’s enthusiasm has been electric and overwhelming with support,” added the Espanola GM.
“The NOJHL continues to get bigger and stronger year after year in developing and promoting athletes and the game itself. We have complete confidence and believe in the direction the league is heading. We feel it was a no brainer that Espanola belongs back in a strong established Hockey Canada league,” said Mr. Clarke.
“We feel everything is coming together well and with our amazing loyal fan support, season ticket drive, great sponsors, all the volunteers and billets, who help make a difference for our players and the large amount of players looking to join our team, we feel we will be contenders right out of the gate,” summarized Mr. Clarke.
As for French River, the Rapids too are excited and are busily gearing up for the 2015-season.
“We are proud to be part of the French River community as well we are very excited to be part of the NOJHL and look forward to being part of the premier junior A hockey league in Northern Ontario,” stated Rapids team president Allan Donnan.”
With commitment and official approval confirmed, the NOJHL is busily preparing for the new season, including working on the game schedule for the 2015-16 season.