Organizers of the Greater Ontario Hockey League (GOJHL) are looking for an ‘A,’ petitioning the Ontario Hockey Association to be reclassified as Junior A from the current Junior B designation.
In an open letter, the GOJHL, which includes the Elmira Sugar Kings, said the reclassification would provide more opportunities for the league’s players, specifically the logistical barriers and fewer opportunities for highly skilled players living in southern Ontario. The current designation hinders their professional progress and development in the sport, the league says.
“For years, the level of play in the GOJHL has been equal to, or better than that of other Junior A leagues in Ontario,” said GOJHL commissioner Brent Garbutt. “We are simply asking the OHA to do the right thing and ensure that our league classification adequately reflects the talent and skill sets of our elite athletes.”
Players in Southwestern Ontario who want to join a Junior A league are forced to relocate up to eight hours outside of their district. Affordability is also a factor, with some Junior A leagues costing nearly $10,000 for one season of play.
“If the OHA does the right thing and approves our call for reclassification, it will level the playing field for all players across southwestern Ontario, keep them in their hometowns and make junior hockey a more accessible sport for all,” said Garbutt.
It’s a position backed by the Sugar Kings, whose players must move out of their family homes and hometowns if they want to advance in their hockey career.
“The GOJHL has been recognized for years as having Junior A caliber of play and player development,” explained Dave O’Donoghue, president of the Elmira Sugar Kings. “Players that live in the GOJHL footprint that 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.”
As of May 31 a petition to change the league’s classification has amassed close to its goal of 2,500 signatures. However the OHA has yet to make any efforts to change the classification, going as far as denying a motion to hold a vote for the issue during its June 19 annual general meeting.
Approving Junior A status for the GOJHL would see the number of Junior A teams within the OHA grow from 22 to 48, adding more competition and room for player growth and development, the league maintains.
“We’re trying to let everyone know outside of the [region], just how good the players are here and that they deserve an opportunity to be represented as well,” said Garbutt