TORONTO – SPORTS – The Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL), a Junior B league in Southwestern Ontario, is fighting for Junior A status from the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA), contending that its lower-tier classification jeopardizes the on and off-ice success of its players. In an open letter sent to the OHA, GOJHL members are urging the OHA to approve its reclassification bid to level the playing field for junior hockey players across the province and enhance the overall quality and competitiveness of Junior A hockey.
“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.”
The open letter notes a number of challenges associated with the GOJHL’s Junior B status, including the implied perception that the product on the ice is inferior. Consequently, scouts are less likely to look for talent amongst the GOJHL player ranks. This impedes player development and results in fewer opportunities for players to move on to higher levels of play including the NCAA, U SPORTS and OHL.
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.
“This is simply not fair. There should not be a geographical boundary on Junior A hockey, especially with the number of Hockey Canada participants in our footprint,” noted Garbutt. “The Ontario Hockey Federation regulations state that reclassification is up to the Member, the OHA, in this instance. If the OHA does the right thing and approves our reclassification bid, it will level the playing field for all players across Southwestern Ontario, keep them in Ontario and make junior hockey a more accessible sport for all.”
Approving Junior A status for the GOJHL would see the number of Junior A teams within the OHA grow from 22 to 48, enhancing the overall quality and competitiveness of junior hockey across the province. As the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) offers the only Junior C hockey in Canada, the move could also have a trickle-down effect in reclassifying them as Junior B. This could allow the PJHL to afford their players greater opportunities and recognition of their skill level within their league footprint.
The GOJHL and its member teams have been unsuccessful in their attempts to meet with their Association to review this issue. A motion for reclassification presented by one of its member teams to allow the OHA membership to vote on the issue at the OHA’s June 19th Annual General Meeting has been denied to proceed.
“The professionalism and integrity that these organizations have shown in their everyday operations are deserving of a Junior A classification,” said London Knights Owner, Vice President and General Manager Mark Hunter. “They have repeatedly shown the ability to put on a world class operation and the ability to develop players both in hockey and in life. They constantly lose players to other organizations merely due to perception of the Junior B classification.”
The league is also circulating a petition in support of its reclassification bid. To learn more about the GOJHL, visit https://www.gojhl.ca/.