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Junior Options: OJHL

by Jason Nadeau

Hi Everyone,

This is our first Friday posting, and I hope this extra new content on Monday’s and Friday’s will catch on without me having to Mass-Spam you all 3 times a week!!! Hopefully, we will get similar interest readership wise without the extra mail outs!!!!
Just a quick note today: Cathy wanted me to let you all know that North Delta Bantam A1/ A2 tournament Dec 18 -21st is looking for 2-3 more teams for their tournament. If you are interested, please drop me an email and I will put you in touch with Cathy! Thanks! J

I received a follow-up Ask Jason Question to our last article on Comparing Junior Leagues and I thought that I would try to briefly address it here!

Question: “I have enjoyed reading all of your Hockey Advocate articles. I really appreciate the information you have shared.
How would you compare the western junior leagues with the OJHL (other eastern Tier 2 junior leagues) regarding coaching, and opportunities for moving American born players on to the next level?”
Thanks again for all you provide the hockey world. You are the best. —- Sportingly, Chris”

First of all, Thanks to Chris for his kind words and great question! Unfortunately, I will ONLY address the first part of this question today. I will look at options for US born players in Canadian Junior Leagues in more depth in a future article as it is a huge topic…. So, let’s look at the OJHL & CJHL in general terms for all players.

Here are the NCAA Commitments so far in 2010-11 for each League:

OJHL (21 NCAA D1) & CJHL (18 NCAA D1) The numbers will of course ONLY climb from here. The OJHL had 50+ NCAA D1 Scholarships last year with easily 75-100+ more to the CIS, NCAA D3 and other institutions. The CJHL has a great reputation for moving players on to the college ranks. So in this regard, as a measure of success, BOTH leagues provide a good opportunity if you want to move on to any level of college or university play.
I think there are 3 other issues that people must consider as pertinent:

1) Proximity – Let’s face it, MORE Colleges and universities who offer hockey scholarships are in the relative vicinity of these two leagues. It is very affordable in terms of money and time for coaches to scout players in this league multiple times or even on the spur of the moment. You can’t exactly just decide to drive or fly over to see the Yorkton Terriers (SJHL), Quesnel Millionaires (BCHL) or Fresno Monsters (NAHL) at the last minute from Michigan State. Time is money!!!!

2) Finances – Some teams have better resources then others. That goes without saying, but in this instance, it needs to be better examined. What you find in Ontario is a mixed bag of have’s and have not’s. There are teams that draw well and there are teams in the Metro Toronto Area that are lucky to have a few parents show up. While every league has these types of issues to a certain degree, I think there are more higher budget teams out West that not only provide a professional atmosphere for players to play in, in front of large crowds, but they also have better equipment and travel budgets. These aren’t inconsequential things. Each year there are more then one OJHL clubs that basically run on player fees with limited ice time and practices and they get blown out of the water by the better financed clubs. The fact is, in the West, BCHL clubs are million dollar businesses in many markets. There are always more then a handful of OJHL type teams that are bought and sold primarily as vehicles through which a Father or Mother of means can purchase a team so that their own SON has somewhere to play. Sad, but TRUE! They are convenient 2-4 year right-offs so little Johnny can have a place to get his ice-time and exposure. This may sound a bit harsh, but unless you are little Johnny do you think what little other resources that team expends are going to be used to help coach you son or improve HIS game? Odds are not really…. You need to do your homework in this area to ensure you get the best service and opportunity possible.

3) Talent Level & Age – Let’s face it, the OHL does as good a Job as the WHL in recruiting, so that doesn’t always leave enough talent to go around for 43 Combined teams in the OJHL/CJHL. The population is obviously larger but that’s a LOT of teams to choose from and there are still the SIJHL & NOJHL leagues to consider as well as a Non-Hockey Canada Sanctioned Jr.A league or two to add to the mix. When you go to the OJHL showcase and see ALL 30+ teams play at a time over a weekend, you really appreciate what I’m talking about, there just isn’t enough talent to go around, which might mean more opportunity for your son to get quality ice time!!!

But for those of you who have been to a Royal Bank Cup and seen OJHL teams perform very well when compared to other regions, you might say their talent level is just fine… But that brings me to the biggest area of concern for a player to consider, age. Out West, teams are typically limited to 3-5 20 year Olds PER team. The OJHL is basically a 20 year old Free-for-ALL as teams with a legit shot at a National Title will stock up with as many as possible. Getting valuable ice time as a younger player can be very difficult. While this concentration of MEN brings up the overall skill level, it doesn’t do much to help develop younger players in key game situations. Take a look at the 2 playoff finalists in the 2010 Finals: Oakville had 8 (1989’s) and Kingston had 9 (89’s). Basically there top two lines were veterans with a few minutes here and there for everyone else.

Lastly, I have helped broker the movement of more then a few players from Ontario back West, the result was typically that the level of play out west was noticeably higher. Chad Dunlop and Paul Dainton were two players that I assisted in facilitating and marketing to the BCHL. Both played well, but NEITHER put up the kind of numbers that were expected based upon their stats from Ontario. In fact if you look at Chad Dunlop’s numbers he had the same stats in Ontario before and after his trip to BC, with a 25 point drop during his season in the BCHL despite playing 20-5+ quality minutes a night.

Conclusion: As always, do your homework, make sure whatever team you are looking at provides exactly what you need. Check out their track record in moving players on to the next level, their budget, the typical age of their roster, their coaches resume and if you do that, you have started out asking some of the right questions you need to know to make an informed decision.

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