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THE "GO" A HOCKEY SECRET? - Junior Hockey News
Published: Sunday, 1 Apr 2012
By: David Cole
Think about a league that has 3 divisions. A league that has a tradition that goes back many years. A governing body for junior hockey that is 75 years old with great tradition as well. A hockey organization that started in the year 1890. An excellent league outside southern Ontario that not many people know very much about.
The Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League is the league referred to as the "GO".
Everyone in North America close or aware of the game knows the "O", the "W" or the "Q" forming the CHL, the Canadian Hockey League. The Canadian Hockey League with franchises in the United States is sometimes known as the greatest amateur league in the world. The "GO" could be the best kept secret outside of the province of Ontario.
The GOJHL is made up of very good established franchises that play within their own divisions then play games in their rival divisions on a yearly basis. What makes the "GO" so unique is that it is a dream for players, coaches, owners and certainly fans. Think about a league that can play against its furthest rival in the furthest geographic location and it would not exceed four hours on the road. You would have to stop for refreshments twice and probably drive the posted speed limit for it to take longer than the four hours.
Having one USA based team playing just a few minutes over the Peace Bridge joining Fort Erie and Buffalo is probably the biggest challenge for the member franchises. In cities and towns with populations between six and three hundred and sixty six thousand, the "GO" provides great opportunity for the aspiring young player to live in unique Canadian environments.
Exposure to an unlimited amount of NCAA teams in both Division 1 and 3. The CIS, Canadian University hockey are is in the backyard of the "GO" where the hockey is arguably the best kept secret in Canadian hockey with a level of play that competes with the NCAA. The SUNYAC OF the NCAA is the neighbours just over the border. The OHL, WHL, QHL all are aware of the "GO" with extensive scouting staffs that appear to go to the end of the world to find hockey players.
The playoffs are well underway and down to two teams in the three divisions in pursuit of the prestigious Sutherland Cup. First handed out in 1934 the Sutherland Cup is now presented to the Ontario Champion of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League playing under the "junior "B" designation. By Canadian standards the designation is arguably just a letter attached to a quality level of play that in most cases can compete with Tier II leagues in North America. It was described to me once a long time ago that the difference in many cases was the amount teams were willing to invest for the pursuit of a championship not the level of play. To compete for a national Championship was a substantial investment in comparison to the Sutherland Cup Championship on a provincial basis.
Six teams left playing best of seven series to determine a division title. The division winners will enter into the Sutherland Cup round robin to determine two teams to play a best of seven series to determine recognition in Ontario. The province of Ontario is the most populated province in Canada supplies an impressive number of hockey players to the next levels of hockey.
Unique matchups have created interesting discussions at the local water coolers in cities and towns across southern Ontario. The Falcons from the city of St. Catharines are playing the Port Colborne Pirates from the town of 18,424 residents. The home of Wayne Gretzky, Brantford where the Golden Eagles represent them are playing the hometown of the Stratford Streak, Howie Morenz, the Gretzky of the 1920's and 30's. The Stratford Cullitons have a well known tradition of placing NCAA, CIS and NHL players. The London Nationals, a team with a long tradition in the "GO's" largest market is playing the equally well known team the Strathroy Rockets in one of the smallest markets of around twenty thousand people.
The "GO" will provide quality hockey, exciting games with young men playing for the name on the front of their jersey first and the name on the back second hoping for that glimpse of exposure to have the opportunity to move to the next level.
I encourage the North American hockey community to follow this exciting competition for the "Sutherland Cup" and consider the league if you are a young player looking for teams that can provide excellent opportunities. You don't have to live in the backyard of the team to play in a reputable league. I indicated in a previous article about the number of opportunities for North American players in Ontario alone. A USA born player is considered a North American in Hockey Canada where USA Hockey considers Canadians as foreign players, a huge advantage in my opinion for the USA born hockey player. Bottom line, I don't know of coaches that care what a player's passport or birth certificate indicates, they care about whether or not they can play. I remember when Ed Olczyk left the Chicago area in the early 1980's to play for the Stratford Cullitons. That was a good decision by Olczyk and the team. I think that is just an example of how things can work out.
What ever team wins the Sutherland Cup in the next few weeks, the "GO" will be a winner too!
David Cole is a former coach in the OHA, AFHL, AWHL, GOJHL and the NAHL living in the Niagara region of Ontario enjoying his three sons and daughter playing the game of hockey.
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