It will be a meeting of the minds when the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League holds its 2012-13 scheduling session in Sault Ste. Marie on June 15-16. Meanwhile, in the North American Hockey League, the minds have already met and barring a few tweaks, the 2012-13 schedule is all but finalized.
Representatives from the seven NOJHL teams and commissioner Robert Mazzuca will try to decide whether to go with a single division of seven teams or two divisions, one with four teams and the other with three.
A single division set-up made up of all seven teams could still provide for an unbalanced schedule, which keeps travel costs down.
Afterall, in a league where all teams make the playoffs, does it really matter if a single-division schedule is unbalanced?
The single division format could, for example, result in the top team getting a first-round bye and the remaining six teams playing off in three separate, best-of-five or best-of-seven series. The three winners would then join the first-place team in a pair of semi-final sets with the two winners meeting in the finals.
Last season, the two-division format led to two best-of-seven, first-round playoff series in the four-team East. The three-team West used a round-robin playoff format in which the teams played one another home-and-home with the top two teams advancing to the second round. The problem with the round-robin was not only did it result in fewer games but there was actually one game that meant absolutely nothing.
The NAHL will be a four-division, 24-team league come the 2012-13 season.
The biggest division will be the NAHL North with eight teams spanning four states.
Soo Eagles, Port Huron Fighting Falcons, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings and the Flint-based Michigan Warriors are all from the Great Lakes State. Jamestown Ironmen are from New York, Johnstown Tomahawks represent Pennsylvania, Wisconsin is the home state of Janesville Jets and Springfield Jr. Blues call Illinois home.
The 2012-13 NAHL regular season is slated to begin on September 8 and end on March 30.
All teams will play a 60-game regular season schedule, including four apiece at the annual showcase tournament
The Eagles, meanwhile, are trying to arrange a pre-season tournament that would include at least one other NAHL team plus one or two more from the NOJHL.
A long-time, well-respected National Hockey League scout, who I have known for many years, tells me that as far as calibre of play is concerned, he feels the United States Hockey League is over-rated and the North American Hockey League is under-rated.
The scout also opined that as far as commissioners are concerned, Mark Frankenfeld of the NAHL is the most-efficient and most-effective of any who are in charge of an American-based junior hockey league.
BEAVERS NEED BOOST
Blind River Beavers are banking -- literally and figuratively -- that a fresh look led by personable new coach Doug McEwen will help boost the team's sagging attendance numbers come the 2012-13 season.
Attendance has steadily plummeted from an average of 358 fans per game during the 2008-09 campaign when Todd Stencill was coach and Don Lees Jr. was general manager in the three ensuing seasons with Jim Capy as coach and Jim Yardanoff as GM.
From the 2008-09 average of 358, attendance at Beaver home games has dipped to 348 in 2009-10, 294 in 2010-11 and 263 in 2011-12.
Add it up and at an average price of $8 per ticket, the decline in attendance over the past three seasons has cost the Beavers organization more than $30,000 in revenue.
In a small market like Blind River where every dollar counts, $30,000 in lost ticket revenue over a three-year period is huge money.
To be fair, it would not be right to put the blame for the decline in attendance squarely on the heads of the dour duo of Capy and Yardanoff.
But there is something to be said about being "fan friendly" and to be honest, Capy and Yardanoff are known for their aloof, indifferent ways.
Which brings us to the new coach, McEwen and his hand-picked assistant, David McCaig.
McEwen has a reputation as a friendly, down-to-earth individual and a good hockey man.
McCaig is just 20-years old and fresh from a four-year, NOJHL playing career in which he served three separate tours of duty in Blind River. Not only does the keen, effervescent McCaig have a self-professed love for the town of Blind River and the Beavers hockey club, he gives new meaning to the words outgoing and talkative.
Blind River fans don't have unrealistic expectations for championships. In fact, the Beavers have won just one playoff series since coming into NOJHL existence in 2001 and that was with Stencill as coach and Lees as GM..
To be sure, Beaver fans just want to cheer on their team and have a coach and a GM who they can relate to and who will give them a few friendly words in return.