GOJHL launches a PR campaign for Jr. ‘A’ status

Lincolns fans asked to sign online league petition

By Pat Payton

Last Thursday morning, the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) officially launched a four-week public relations campaign with hopes of acquiring Junior ‘A’ status.

St. Marys Lincolns are one of 26 member teams in the GOJHL, which has held Jr. ‘B’ status in the province for decades.

“It’s no secret this league has produced many elite players, just look at the NHL playoffs right now with Joe Thornton, Mark Scheifele and Mike Hoffman,” says Lincs’ team president Brandon Boyd. “This movement is for the players, for the future of these historic franchises as they deserve to compete in the proper category. There is no other region in the country that operates with an A, B and C model in the same footprint, and it’s time to correct that in southern Ontario.”

On May 27, the GOJHL sent an open letter to the Ontario Hockey Association, detailing its bid for reclassification within the OHA. New commissioner Brent Garbutt says the GOJHL is seeking the backing from all 26 clubs in their three conferences.

Several supporting points

In a press release last week, the GOJHL listed several things that support its bid for reclassification.

1. The level of play amongst GOJHL players is equal to that of other Junior ‘A’ players in  Ontario, but its Junior B status makes it less appealing for scouts, thereby reducing opportunities for players to move forward with their educational and playing careers.

2. Players who live in the GOJHL footprint who are seeking to play Junior ‘A’ are forced to  relocate to play, losing the support mechanism of family and friends that is critical to personal development.

3. The GOJHL has the second-largest number of registered players in Canada. Three other Junior ‘A’ leagues in the province have far fewer registered players.

4. The GOJHL has been recognized for years as having Junior ‘A’ calibre of play and player  development.

5. Many teams within the GOJHL have Ontario Hockey League affiliation agreements that are used to develop younger players as well as bring up players from their rosters when OHL players are sidelined.

OHA blocks AGM motion

A member of the GOJHL filed a motion for the OHA AGM where all OHA members (OJHL, GOJHL, PJHL) would vote on whether to give the league ‘A’ status. The OHA has blocked this motion from being voted on at the June 19 AGM so far.

This adds to the GOJHL’s frustration, as Boyd adds neither the OHF or OHA appear willing to combat the issue, with both sides directing the decision making process to the other governing body. So now, this PR campaign shifts the pressure to the OHF and Hockey Canada to #DoTheRightThing.

The GOJHL is hoping to get 10,000 names on a petition — gojhl.ca/do-the-right-thing — and share league and team posts on social media.

Boyd notes that if other players are encouraged to leave southern Ontario for what may be perceived as better hockey, it can put the future quality of the league in jeopardy. Many of these ‘A’ leagues can charge up to $10,000 each for player fees, a model the GOJHL has been able to steer well clear of due to strong operating models and community support.

“From Windsor to Sarnia and Waterloo to Niagara Falls, this (GOJHL) footprint has long been one of the hotbeds of OHL, NCAA and professional hockey development,” Boyd says. “Let’s do our part as the St. Marys Lincolns to shine the spotlight on this issue so the powers at be are forced to take action and restore our place in the Junior hockey landscape.”