The region’s junior ‘A’ hockey league is aiming to begin its 2020-21 season on October 1, pending approval of its return-to-play plan by local health authorities.
In a media statement issued September 4, the commissioner of the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL), Kevin Abrams, announced that his league, using the Hockey Eastern Ontario return-to-play plan as a guide, has been working with “four regional health units and ten municipalities through our twelve member teams” to formulate a path forward for hockey to resume.
The plan includes “modified play in pre-season” to begin October 1 for all teams, including the Hawkesbury Hawks and Cornwall Colts.
“In these uniquely challenging times, I must thank our member teams, the players and parents participating in the current programs, as well as the HEO RTP Task Team, the HEO Board and Staff, and the 4 local health units and facilities in the 10 municipalities that are home to the CCHL, for their support and patience as we work through these unprecedented times together.”
Kevin Abrams, commissioner of the CCHL
The 2019-20 CCHL season was abruptly halted in March, following instructions from Hockey Canada to suspend play due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league had just begun its playoffs, which included the Hawks, the second-place team from the Yzerman Division. The Colts didn’t qualify for the post-season, ending the campaign fifth in the division.
In preparation for the hoped puck drop on a new season, teams are spending this month engaged in training, skills development, and evaluation. Upon approval of the CCHL plan for the pre-season, Abrams will “submit a similar proposal for the commencement of the CCHL regular season in the ensuing weeks.”
What’s old is new again, as the saying goes. The Central Canada Hockey League 2 has become the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League, with junior ‘B’ hockey’s local loop returning to its roots.
Back in 2015, the CCHL2 was launched with fanfare, created from the ashes of the EOJHL. At the time, sources told me change was afoot amongst the existing junior ‘B’ hockey clubs which comprised the EOJHL. The Ottawa-based teams were looking to form a new league, aligned with the junior ‘A’ CCHL, while the remainder of the clubs from Alexandria through to Gananoque explored going on without them in a smaller junior ‘B’ league.
Longtime followers of the league would remember that back then there were two conferences, each with two divisions, and a total of 22 teams. Remember the Akwesasne Wolves, Morrisburg Lions, and Gananoque Islanders, among others? These clubs were left out when the CCHL2 was formed.
In April of 2015, I reported in The Glengarry News that the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League would cease operations.
Clubs interested in being part of the CCHL2 had to apply with the clear understanding that those behind the new league wanted to reduce its number to 16. As well, the teams had to commit to providing a CCHL-like (junior ‘A’) experience for players.
Both the Alexandria Glens and Char-Lan Rebels were successful in garnering franchises in the CCHL2. Over the ensuing five seasons, administratively, the junior ‘B’ league was largely run by those behind the junior ‘A’ hockey in Eastern Ontario, as was the U18 league which they took over as well.
Kevin Abrams served as commissioner of the leagues for this stretch, and with the 2020 rebrand, he hands the baton for the EOJHL to Sean Marcellus, who previously worked as director of hockey operations for the leagues.
“I take great pride in being named Commissioner of the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League. I originally had my first hockey job in the old EOJHL working with the Arnprior Packers back in 2012 so to be able to take the reigns at the league level in 2020 is very exciting for me. Working alongside Kevin Abrams has benefited me in more ways than I can explain, he gave me a chance five years ago and his leadership and direction has prepared me greatly for this position. I am very thankful to our board of governors for showing confidence in me and I am excited at being tasked at helping lead this league in a positive manner moving forward.”
Sean Marcellus statement
From the league’s announcement of the change: “For the past five seasons, the CCHL2 has evolved into a top developmental league for the CCHL and levels above. That will continue with the new EOJHL but with a focus on independence as a league with 11 of the 16 teams operated without CCHL ownership.”
It is perhaps that word ‘independence’ that elicits the most curiosity, as one wonders how that will play out for the 2020-21 season and beyond. Part of the CCHL2’s raison d’être was its tight connection with junior ‘A’ hockey in Eastern Ontario. This relationship included clubs signing agreements with CCHL teams to facilitate the development and exchange of players. This went so far as some combined training, at least in the case of the Char-Lan Rebels (junior ‘B’) and Cornwall Colts (junior ‘A’).
The former EOJHL was entirely independent of the CCHL, though clubs at the two levels did find ways to work together. It wasn’t uncommon, for example, to have a player signed to a junior ‘B’ card playing a handful of games at the junior ‘A’ level.
So indeed, this change may end up being a return to the past in many ways. But I wouldn’t bet on a return of any of the lost teams, the ‘B’ in the league’s name, or face cages (remember those?)
Meanwhile, work towards the on-ice product continues, as teams recruit players and plan for their 2020 training camps, scheduled for later this summer.
The region’s junior ‘A’ hockey league, the CCHL, yesterday announced that the Kanata Laser franchise, owned by Cory Greer and Nick Urbisci, has been transferred to Jim Seyers and Ryan Leonard who plan to move the club to Renfrew for the 2020-21 season, to play as the Renfrew Wolves.
Renfrew is located northwest of Ottawa, just off Highway 17 at Highway 60, approximately 194 km from Alexandria. The rink is known as the Ma-Te-Way Activity Centre and is located in the western part of the community.
Renfrew is currently home to the junior ‘B’ Timberwolves, which, according to renfrewtoday.ca, will be relocated to another community yet to be confirmed. Speculation is that the likely new home would be Comben, as the team now playing there, the Whitewater Kings, is working to move to Petawawa.
The Timberwolves and Kings play in the Richardson Division of the CCHL2, with the former in fourth place in the standings and playoff-bound, on a record of 25-14-1-4, while the latter will be watching the post-season from the stands, as Whitewater stands seventh, on a record of 10-29-3-2. Both teams have completed their 2019-20 regular-season schedules.
Renfrew will take on neighbouring Arnprior in round one of the junior ‘B’ playoffs, starting next week.
As for the Lasers of the CCHL, Kanata is currently fifth of six teams in the Richardson Division, with four games remaining. Their regular season continues through March 8. The Lasers play out of the Kanata Recreation Complex.
On the team’s relocation, league commissioner Kevin Abrams says, “This represents full-circle closure of the CCHL’s plan to expand from 10 to 12 teams and relocate two city-based teams to outside markets. This has been 12 years in the making, after expansion to Kemptville and Carleton Place, and relocation of [the] Gloucester [club] to Rockland.”
Abrams describes Renfrew as “a vibrant community that will embrace everything that CCHL hockey is about,” adding, “and I look forward to welcoming them to the world of Junior A hockey. I would like to thank the Greer family for their commitment to the Lasers and the CCHL, and welcome Jim Seyers and Ryan Leonard to our league.”