The Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League (EOJHL) is officially gone. The league has started over and rebranded itself as the Central Canada Hockey League Tier 2 (CCHL2). As part of the rebranding the league will begin from scratch resulting in a new constitution, new scheduling, new playoff format and new conferences among a multitude of other changes.
One of the biggest purposes of the new league was to affiliate CCHL2 teams with teams from the CCHL. The hope is that it will help develop players in the CCHL2 before moving up to the CCHL and eventually major junior, college or even the NHL. While the two leagues are continuing to work through who affiliates with who, a few teams have already been affiliated. The Westport Rideaus will be affiliated with the Smiths Falls Bears, the Brockville Braves with the Brockville Tikis and the Alexandria Glens with the Hawkesbury Hawks. Since there are more CCHL2 teams than there are CCHL teams some of the CCHL teams will have two CCHL2 teams affiliated to them.
To cut down on the number of CCHL teams with multiple affiliations the CCHL2 has been condensed from 22 teams to 16. As a result six teams were not included in the new league and either folded all together or moved to another league. The teams that decided to fold were the Shawville Pontiacs, Almonte Thunder and Akwesasne Wolves. The teams moving down from Junior B hockey to Junior C hockey include the Morrisburg Lions who joined the National Capital Junior Hockey League (NCJHL) and the Gananoque Islanders who joined the Empire B Junior C Hockey League (EBJCHL). The Gatineau Mustangs moved from Junior B to Junior A and joined the Quebec Junior Hockey League (QJHL) but will no longer be called the “Mustangs” as another team in the league already uses the “Mustangs” as their team nickname.
Aeros General Manager Norm Racine said although there was always a chance the Aeros wouldn’t be included in the league he was confident that they would be. He also noted how important the Aeros are for Athens and how happy he was when word came that they were in fact included.
“The support that we get from the community is huge… two years or three years ago when we went to the finals we had the guys from the sports station in Kingston come down here. He was down here interviewing us and interviewing me. He was taking pictures of the rink. I mean that’s all great for Athens, it just builds up our community and puts our name on the map a little bit more. It’s good for the community the people that come out here, we sometimes don’t have 300 fans every night but we have some loyal fans that come to our games all the time. They don’t want to lose that, what do they do on a Sunday evening in Athens, they go watch the Aeros play” he said.
The next big change the league made was realignment. The new league will consist of two conferences, changing from the old format of two conferences with two divisions in each conference. The new conferences are called Richardson (West) named after former Ottawa West Golden Knight, Luke Richardson and Martin (East) named after former coach of the Navan Grads, now known as the Cumberland Grads of the CCHL, Jacques Martin. The Richardson Conference includes the Arnprior Packers, Athens Aeros, Brockville Tikis, Perth Blue Wings, Prescott Flyers, Renfrew Timberwolves, Stittsville Rams and Westport Rideaus. The Martin Conference features the Alexandria Glens, Casselman Vikings, Char-Lan Rebels, Clarence Beavers, Metcalfe Jets, Ottawa Canadians, Ottawa West Golden Knights and Winchester Hawks.
With the new conference alignment brings a new schedule. Under the old format teams in the Rideau-St.Lawerence Conference would play exclusively against each other while teams in the Metro-Valley Conference would also exclusively play each other. Under the new format teams in both conferences will play each other at least once at home and once on the road. To maintain some of the old rivalries from the old conference alignment the schedule for the first couple of years will be slightly unbalanced with teams from the same area playing more often then the teams from farther away, meaning Brockville and Prescott will play each other more often to maintain that rivalry and Athens and Westport will do the same. The eventual intention is to have a balanced schedule with each team playing the other teams in their conference the same number of times while still playing the other conference at least once at home and once on the road.
The new schedule will be 44 games long and will begin with a three-day showcase, September 11, 12 and 13 in Perth with each team playing 2 games over the three days.