The biggest topic of discussion resides around the fact that there are too many teams in junior hockey. With not enough talent to go around it contributes to the reason why you have a few dominate teams and a bunch of teams who can barely break even in the junior “B” and “C” levels. The Junior “A” ranks have the same issue but, not on as large of a scale.
So when a junior “B” team moves into Collingwood and they need to fill an entire roster what happens then?
The junior “B” group has vowed to roster players from Collingwood, therefore allowing them a place to play hockey closer to home. There is one problem; there are not enough players in the town of Collingwood to roster a team. I went and did some digging, and currently playing in the GOJHL from Collingwood there is 1 player, in junior “C” there is 11 players split between 5 teams that hail from Collingwood. You can add in the 6 (AAA) Midget players and 2 Bantam (AAA) kids just to add a few to the total.
In order to fill an entire roster you have to venture out to surrounding areas and take from the Minor Midget leagues in the area as well as the junior “C” teams. Owners will not take kindly to losing 15-20 players due to a team wanting to roster players just in the Collingwood area, Junior “A” players are not going to drop down a rank however, there are only two junior “A” ranked players from the town of Collingwood. The junior “C” players are nearing the end of their junior hockey careers so they will not be eligible to play, and this will ultimately deplete the available talent even more. The junior “B” team will not have players available to become affiliates because the junior “B” group will have acquired all the players in the area.
Trying to gain popularity within the community by relying on local talent will cause one thing. It will quickly become another team that struggles against the healthier teams and within a short amount of time players won’t want to continue being beat badly, not to mention it’s hard to develop when you’re constantly being blown out of hockey games. The owners want local based talent and that just is not feasible if you want to be competitive.
But what about the junior “A” bid are they not taking from the local teams?
Well the answer is yes. The junior “A” group will also draw talent from the junior “C” and midget ranks. They also can acquire players from all over Canada which allows the local teams to remain stocked with their talented players. Having the junior “A” team in Collingwood also allows the Midget and junior “C” players a chance to be brought on as an affiliated player. This will ensure lower tier teams keep their players but, also allow the players a chance to measure up with the higher tier players and gain experience as they’re ready.
There will be some challenges for the junior “A” owners as they will have to see which players return from the acquired roster and then set out to surround them with players from the local area. The first year will likely have some growing pains and an adjustment period, but I don’t see it lasting, or being as long of an adjustment period as it will for the junior “B” group.
What about the junior “B” bid being affiliated with the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL?
That is terrific for the junior “B” squad to have a major junior club assisting in scouting of talent and guiding players in the team’s direction. This will give them a recruiting tool as they can boast the fact the Owen Sound Attack keep a close eye on the team, with the possibility to be noticed. Certainly rare for junior “B” teams to have major junior hockey club affiliates, only 3 teams currently in the GOJHL have OHL affiliates.
Then you look at the junior “A” ownership group and the president and majority owner of the Barrie Colts is also part owner of the junior “A group. Immediately you know they will have every resource available to the OHL club to make the junior “A” squad an instant contender.
Then you factor in that this will also be great national exposure for Collingwood just from having a junior “A” team that operates in the nationally ranked Canadian Junior Hockey League. This will draw players to the team and also knowing they have a direct line to the major junior affiliate team the Barrie Colts, there is not much else you can ask for if contemplating playing junior “A”. The recruiting of players from local based teams won’t have such an immediate impact.
Who gives you the best chance to win and be successful?
Well the junior “B” group may figure it out after some years and make a charge to the top. That isn’t going to happen until the talent pool grows and by then like many other teams, the team will be on the verge of folding, or they will be moved elsewhere, or contracted.
It’s hard to see where the junior “B” team will be successful, as they want to be a local talent based team. They want to have the community support but I am sure like the rest of hockey communities the town of Collingwood wants to win with sustained existence. Part of this ownership group already attempted to bring a team to Collingwood in 2015 but couldn’t pull it together. I have not seen anything to suggest that this bid will be any different.
The junior “A” group brings financial backing and a plan to build a nationally recognized competitive hockey team, with the OHL Barrie Colts sending players there to develop. Add up all the combined years of management and ownership knowledge that comes with the new owners and it’s hard not to feel you will be contending with in a year or two. An RBC cup and Memorial Cup all in one year for the town of Collingwood, could you imagine.
What is best for Collingwood?
That is the big question at hand. In my opinion the junior “A” just makes sense overall, existing roster, financial backing, OHL owner financially invested in the team, a long term plan that vows to make Collingwood a nationally recognized town.
The junior “B” bid comes backed by lack of management knowledge, no prior players to build from, very little funding and no way to truly bring in competitive talent to help develop the younger players. Relying on the Owen Sound Attack to attract the players from surrounding areas may bring you enough players to roster a team. How many kids from OHL or junior “A” actually want to play in junior “B”? it’s hard enough for current teams to attract players from higher ranking leagues.
If the struggles do begin and the bills start to pile up how do they compensate and keep the team afloat?
That is where the big difference comes into play as the junior “B” group has an affiliation to the Owen Sound Attack. The Attack are vowing to lend resources such as personnel to help with scouting and directing players to the junior “B” team. The junior “B” owners do not have the financial backing from the Owen Sound Attack so that is one big area of concern going forward. Unsure as to where that money will come from as of now.
The junior “A” group has the Barrie Colts ownership group and a major company invested in the team which gives the town of Collingwood security in knowing there is ways to fund the team if it does have some rough patches. The junior “A” team will act as a farm team for the Colts, so the scouts will be placing players they have acquired already on the team to give them more development. This in turn gives the junior “A” squad instant major junior experienced players to help develop the younger players.
To me it makes the most sense for the junior “A” team to make Collingwood their home to start next season. I would love to see the junior “B” and “C” levels gain more talent before expanding the league. I think if they allowed the talent to catch up to the amount of teams it would make it appealing to unhappy fans. Even more so to the fans who have to consistently watch their local team get beat up every week because there is only a couple teams with enough talent and experience to compete. It’s been a long debated topic for many years in junior hockey. I just personally don’t see success coming from an already depleted league.