Radical Changes to Ontario Hockey League for 2012-13 Season

Surprising, but exciting news out of the Ontario Hockey League head office has member teams scratching their heads and wondering what the implications are. The OHL will radically change the way the league operates in 2012-13 by adding a ‘Division 2’ consisting of six teams.

Just the facts:

  • The OHL goes Euro with a Division 2 that will allow for relegation and promotion.
  • Division 2 will have six franchises in six exciting locations where major junior hockey is sorely needed.
  • OHL Division 2 team players will retain NCAA eligibility.
  • Chatham, Timmins, Thunder Bay, Buffalo, North Bay and Cornwall have been granted franchises for the 2012-13 season.

In much the fashion of European hockey and soccer leagues, their will now be yearly relegation and promotion of teams between the OHL and the OHL Division 2. Starting at the end of the 2012-13 season, the last place team overall in the OHL will be relegated to Division 2 for the following season, while the top team in the Division 2 will be promoted to take that team’s spot. For example, if Division 2 protocol was in place for 2011-12, the Erie Otters would be relegated.

OHL officials stated that the system would have been in place with the NHL and AHL but it all came down to the size of the Venues and overall markets. Let’s face it, the Rockford IceHogs would have a hard time paying the bills in the NHL playing out of the 5,767 seat BMO Harris Bank Centre.

The OHL is a different story. The six teams that will make up the Division 2 all play out of arenas comparable in size to the existing 20 venues. Two locations previously housed OHL franchises.

The teams:

  • Chatham Power
  • Timmins Barilkos
  • Thunder Bay Superior
  • Buffalo Mallers
  • North Bay 130’s
  • Cornwall Royals

I assume the Buffalo nickname is a stab at Canadian cross-border shoppers. As for the North Bay franchise, it took more than a few calls and e-mails to connections in North Bay to figure that one out. The Centennials came into the OHL in 1982 and were named that because it was the 100th anniversary of the railroad in North Bay. 2012 is the 130th year.

Chatham is named for the exponentially expanding wind turbine market in the area. Cornwall simply had no creativity whatsoever and the name was made free after Newmarket was relocated to Sarnia back in 1994. The Timmins team name is simply awesome and only a great mind would come up with something like that. The legend of Bill Barilko is larger than life – sort of the Paul Bunyan of hockey. Thunder Bay is named for a lake.

It another twist, after successful negotiations, OHL Division 2 team players will retain NCAA eligibility. There would definitely be implications for players on teams being promoted to the OHL that still need to be worked out within the league.

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