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NOJHL v. NAHL - Junior Hockey News
Published: Tuesday, 21 Feb 2012
The Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League is made up of seven teams.
The North American Hockey League is made up of 28 teams.
The NOJHL has a good reputation for developing players for the Major Junior, Ontario Hockey League.
The NAHL has a good reputation for developing players for the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association.
In turn, both the OHL and the NCAA have good reputations for developing players for the National Hockey League and minor professional ranks.
The NOJHL is a good league.
The NAHL is a good league.
But the perception, especially in the United States, among Division 1, NCAA recruiters, is that the NAHL is a much-better league than the NOJHL.
Whether it's because the expansive NAHL has teams and divisions that are spread out all over the United States while the seven NOJHL teams are located within 350 miles of one another, I am not sure.
What I do know is that comapred to the NAHL, the NOJHL suffers from an identity crisis. And if it's the NOJHL's fault that it has not marketed and promoted itself as well as the NAHL has, then so be it.
Personally, I have talked with, on separate occasions, three members of the NOJHL's Soo Eagles -- goalies Luis Puig and Chris Truehl and defenceman Taylor Pickering -- who played in the NAHL and all three told me, without batting an eye, that calibre-wise, the two leagues are on par.
"The only difference between the NAHL and the NOJHL is that the NAHL has a lot more teams," Puig told me.
The 20-year old Puig, who spent the 2010-11 season in the NAHL with Fresno and began the 2011-12 campaign with Michigan before joining the NOJHL Eagles, has a save percentage and goals against average that are virtually identical in both leagues.
At any rate, when it comes to the D1, NCAA recruiters, the NOJHL gets little respect in comparison to the NAHL. And that's despite the fact that the NOJHL is a good breeding ground for the Major Junior, OHL.
NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca is in his first year on the job and realizes that the league needs to market itself and his players more. But Mazzuca, who played the game at a high-level as a former first-round draft pick of the OHL's Sudbury Wolves, said he has no doubt how his league would stack up against the NAHL if it ever had the opportunity.
"I've watched a number of NAHL games on my computer this season," Mazzuca told me, "and yes, it has some good players and some good teams. But is the calibre of play in the NAHL better than it is in the NOJHL? Absolutely not."
Mazzuca said he "would love" to see an all-star showdown featuring the NOJHL's best 20 players against the NAHL's top 20.
"Make it a best-of-seven series or even a best-of-five with our top 20 kids against their top 20 kids and I would be very comfortable putting a wager on our league," Mazzuca said evenly.
To be sure, the NOJHL is taking steps to better market itself. It took part in a Christmas holiday showcase with all-star squads from the Ontario Junior and Central Junior leagues and fared well despite the fact that a number of its top players did not play.
The NOJHL, said Mazzuca, knows what it has. So does the OHL.
Now it's but a matter of convincing the D1, NCAA scouts to head north and pay due diligence to the NOJHL.
Author: Randy Russon
Russon brings a a lifetime of media experience to the JuniorHockey.com staff.
Not sure an all-star series with the best 20 players in each league would settle anything? Why not invite the NOJHL to send it's teams to the NAHL showcase in Blaine, MN? Or how about sending a few NOJHL teams to the Woodchuck Classic in Burlington, VT where there are teams from the OJHL, EJHL, AJHL and MHL?
posted Feb. 21st, 2012 - 9:09am
Jack Dodd says:
RJ Kleiman who played in the 'NA' with the Motor City Metal Jackets and in the NOJHL with the Soo Eagles says the NOJHL is evry bit as good as the NAHL. As Randy says its perception and really, the ball is in the NOJHL's court.
You make good points.
My point wasn't really to "settle" anything as you suggest, rather to opine that the D1, NCAA recruiters are missing out on many good players the NOJHL has to offer.
To me, if the NOJHL is good enough to develop players for the Major Junior, OHL, it just likewise me good enough to develop players for D1, NCAA.
From the Soo Thunderbirds and Soo Eagles alone, I see several players who are of unquestionable D1. NCAA calibre. The list would include left winger Jake Wright and goalie John Kleinhans of the Thunderbirds and from the Eagles, centre Matt Wiggemansen, forward Dallas McLaughlin, defenceman Tyler Sehovic and goalie Chris Truehl.
At any rate, you do make good points and as I stated, the NOJHL needs to enhance its promotion and marketing efforts. I believe that under the direction of new Commissioner Robert Mazzuca and with active owners such as Albert Giommi of the Soo Thunderbirds, the NOJHL is taking forward steps.
Sorry, didn't have my glasses on! That should read: "must likewise be good enough"
I have talked with Mazzuca and he is interested in helping teams get into those types of events. The NOJHL and JuniorHockey.com is also working out the details of a possible advertising agreement.
Mazzuca has a great vision of what the league can become and I share in the thought that we come overcome geography with technology in order to get the college scouts' attention.
Randy how many players are currently playing in the NOJHL that have played major jr.?
Off the top of my head, Micky Sartoretto (Soo Thunderbirds), Jordan Carroll, Nick Esposto, Jamie Haines, Andre Comtois (Sudbury Cubs), Marc-Alain Begin (Abitibi Eskimos) have all played for OHL teams.
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