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Northern Ontario Junior
Hockey League
Northern Ontario Junior.jpg
Founded 1962
No. of teams 12 (for 2021-22)
Associated Title(s) Copeland-McNamara Trophy (NOJHL Playoffs)
Dudley Hewitt Cup
(Central Championship)
Royal Bank Cup
(National Championship)
Recent Champions Hearst Lumberjacks (2021-22 NOJHL season)
Website NOJHL

The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL) is a Junior 'A' hockey league operating in the Canadian province of Ontario. The NOJHL is one of ten Junior 'A' Hockey Leagues in Canada and is a member of the Canadian Junior Hockey League and Hockey Canada.

The winner of the NOJHL playoffs competes for the Dudley Hewitt Cup with the winners of the Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Superior International Junior Hockey League. The winner of the Dudley Hewitt Cup then moves on to compete for the Royal Bank Cup.  As of the conclusion of the 2014-15 season no NOJHL had ever won the Royal Bank Cup or the predecessor Centennial Cup

The Modern NOJHL

The current incarnation of the NOJHL comprises six Ontario teams and one American team. With teams in North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and Michigan, Blind River, Iroquois Falls, and Kirkland Lake, the league is spread across the southern region of Northeastern Ontario and the corresponding region of Michigan.[1]

The story of the current NOJHL began in 1972. The NOJHL was not on stable footing and was competing as a Junior "A" league. In Southern Ontario, the Ontario Major Junior Hockey League was looking to expand North. The league's two top teams, the Sudbury Wolves[2] and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds,[3] accepted an invitation from the OMJHL to compete in the high octane league. The next best team, the North Bay Trappers[4] chose not to stick around either and jumped to the Ontario Hockey Association's new Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League. With the top tier of talent sheared off, the only remaining team in the league was the Chelmsford Canadiens. A season before, the Espanola Screaming Eagles had been a member of the league,[5] but opted to drop to the NOHA Jr. B Hockey League in 1971; the Canadiens joined them in 1972.[6]

The NOHA Jr. B Hockey League was formed in 1970 with a North and South division and teams in Capreol, Levak, Kapuskasing, amongst others. In their first season, the Capreol Hawks won the league championship. In 1971, Espanola jumped on board, followed by Chelmsford in 1972. In 1973, the Canadiens moved to Rayside-Balfour and became the Canadians. The Onaping Falls Huskies joined in 1974,[7] and the Nickel Centre Native Sons joined in 1976.[8]

In 1978, the top teams of the NOHA Jr. B Hockey League created the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and were promoted to Tier II Junior "A".[9] With the five former Jr. "B" clubs and the Sudbury Cubs, the league was back in action. In 1981, the Elliot Lake Vikings jumped into the fold. In 1983, the Onaping Falls Huskies dropped out despite winning three league titles in the past four seasons. After a one season hiatus, they came back for two more years and then folded for good. In 1986, Rayside-Balfour went on hiatus and Capreol folded, dropping the league down to four teams. The Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League, also down to four teams, operated with the NOJHL as essentially two divisions of the same league. With an interlocking schedule, the NOJHL survived the 1986-87 season, the OPJHL did not and folded after the season concluded. Also, after 8 years of trying and failing, an NOJHL champion defeated an OPJHL champion for the Ontario Hockey Association championship. The Nickel Centre Power Trains defeated the Owen Sound Greys 4-games-to-2 for the right to compete for the Dudley Hewitt Cup -- the Central Canadian Junior "A" Championship. The next year, the Canadians were back and a new team known as the Thessalon Flyers entered the league. In 1988, the Haileybury 54's joined the league and in 1989 so did the Rouyn-Noranda Capitales. Thessalon folded in 1990, Haileybury moved to Powassan in 1991 and the Timmins Golden Bears joined as well. A season later, Sudbury became Nickel Centre and then later folded. In 1994, Powassan moved to Sturgeon Falls and the Parry Sound Shamrocks joined the league. In 1996, Rouyn-Noranda folded to make way for a new Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team that was moving to their town. In 1999, Timmins moved to Iroquois Falls, Elliot Lake moved to Nickel Centre, and the Soo Thunderbirds were founded. Also in 1999, Parry Sound moved to a new OPJHL (founded in 1993). A year later, Nickel Centre moved to Blind River and the Sudbury Jr. Wolves were founded. In 2002, Sturgeon Falls moved to North Bay. A season after that, a team from Manitoulin joined and Espanola jumped over to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Finally, in 2005, the league's most dominant team in history and the last remaining shred of the original NOJHL, Rayside-Balfour, folded. They did not go without leaving their mark. From 1996 until 2002, the team won 7 straight NOJHL Championships, three Dudley Hewitt Cups, and once came within one win of winning the Royal Bank Cup as national champions.

In 2005-06, the North Bay Skyhawks played 10 interlocking games against the Central Junior A Hockey League's Yzerman Division members. Skyhawks won 2 out of 10 of those games.

There were six teams in the NOJHL as of 2007. The 2006–07 league champions, the Soo Indians, took a year off in an attempt to sell. A year later they came back as the Soo Eagles. Also, in the summer of 2008 the Temiscaming Royals jumped from the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League to the NOJHL to expand the league to eight teams. Temiscaming was the second Québécois team in NOJHL history, after the Rouyn-Noranda Capitales who were in the league from 1989 to 1996. In the Spring of 2011, the Royals failed to find new ownership and folded.

During the 2011-12 season, the NOJHL implemented concussion safety policy and drug testing programs. The NOJHL is the first league in Canadian Junior A hockey to target either of these hot button issues.[10][11] In 2012, the Soo Thunderbirds became only the second NOJHL franchise to qualify for the Royal Bank Cup, ending a 10-year drought that saw no NOJHL franchise at the Royal Bank Cup, despite making the Dudley-Hewitt Cup finals three times since the round-robin format in 2002. Over the summer of 2012, the Sudbury Jr. Wolves severed ties with the OHL's Wolves amd became the Sudbury Cubs, and that moniker only lasted one season and became the Sudbury Nickel Barons.

In 2013, the NOJHL granted expansion to Espanola. A community that have been without an NOJHL team since 2003 when the Screaming Eagles relocated to Northern Michigan. The re-addition of Espanola to 8 teams - the most since the 2004-05 season. The North Bay Trappers relocated out of North Bay to Mattawa at the end of the 2013-14 season and became the Mattawa Blackhawks all because the Trappers were denied a lease renewal with West Ferris Arena and also because of the thriving OHL market with the North Bay Battalion. The Espanola Rivermen were added to the NOJHL for 2013-14, but left to join the non-Hockey Canada sanctioned Canadian International Hockey League. The Elliot Lake Bobcats relocated to Cochrane, Ontario and became the Cochrane Crunch, who became the league's most-northern team. Weeks later, the Elliot Lake market was replaced with the Elliot Lake Wildcats.

Over the summer of 2015, the league saw the resurrection of the Rayside-Balfour Canadiens, who were the Sudbury Nickel Barons from 2012 to 2015. The Abitibi Eskimos left Iroquois Falls after 13 years to move to Timmins and become the Timmins Rock. Mattawa, the smallest market in the NOJHL lost the Mattawa Blackhawks to Iroquois Falls to fill in for the departed Abitibi Eskimos. The team will be known as the Iroquois Falls Eskimos. The league grew to 10 teams with the addition of the French River Rapids of Noelville, Ontario. The Sudbury Nickel Barons, for the second time pulled out of hosting the Dudley-Hewitt Cup due to the relocation and the lack of support in the community. The 2016 tournament will be allocated to Kirkland Lake, Ontario and hosted by the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.

Weeks after the French River Rapids joined the league, the Espanola Express joined the league putting membership to a record 11 teams - the most the league has carried. The league carried as few as 6 teams in 2007-08. In May 2015, the Soo Eagles of the North American Hockey League applied and were approved by the NOJHL to return to the NOJHL for the first time since the 2011-12 season. The reason for the Soo Eagles return to the NOJHL was because Michigan-based NAHL teams were lost to either folding or relocation, and the league was no longer possible for the Eagles to compete in.

After having sat out the 2020-21 season the Elliot Lake Wildcats have a change in ownership of the team and return for the 2021-22 season as the Elliot Lake Red Wings.[12]

2021-22 Teams

Eastern Division
Team Joined Centre Arena
Cochrane Crunch 2012 Cochrane Tim Horton Events Centre
French River Rapids 2015 Noelville Noelville Arena
Hearst Lumberjacks 1988 Hearst Claude Larose Recreation Centre
Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 2003 Kirkland Lake Joe Mavrinac Community Complex
Powassan Voodoos 2014 Powassan Powassan Sportsplex
Timmins Rock 1991 Timmins McIntyre Arena
Western Division
Blind River Beavers 1999 Blind River Blind River Memorial Community Centre
Elliot Lake Red Wings 2014 Elliot Lake Elliot Lake Centennial Arena
Espanola Express 2015 Espanola Espanola Regional Recreation Complex
Greater Sudbury Cubs 2000 Sudbury Countryside Arena
Soo Eagles 2015 Sault Ste. Marie, MI Pullar Stadium
Soo Thunderbirds 1999 Sault Ste. Marie, ON John Rhodes Community Centre

Copeland-McNamara Trophy and Division Champions

Copeland Cup-McNamara Trophy - NOHA Jr. A Championship.

Frank L. Buckland Trophy - OHA Championship, competed for by NOJHL champions from 1979 until 1997. Won in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1997.

William T. Ruddock Trophy - OHF Championship, competed for by NOJHL champions since 1994. Won in 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2006.

Dudley Hewitt Cup - Regional Championship, competed for by NOJHL champions since 1979. Won in 1997, 2000, 2002, 2012, and 2015.

In 2008-09, the NOJHL instituted divisions. Overall champions are bolded.

NOHA Jr. B Era
Year Champion Finalist
1971 Sudbury Cubs Levack Miners
1972 Levack Miners Sudbury Cubs
1973 Coniston Cubs Levack Miners
1974 Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats Coniston Cubs
1975 Onaping Falls Huskies Capreol Hawks
1976 Onaping Falls Huskies Capreol Hawks
1977 Onaping Falls Huskies Capreol Hawks
1978 Onaping Falls Huskies Capreol Hawks
Year Champion Finalist
1979 Nickel Centre Native Sons Sudbury Cubs
1980 Onaping Falls Huskies
1981 Onaping Falls Huskies
1982 Onaping Falls Huskies Elliot Lake Vikings
1983 Elliot Lake Vikings Onaping Falls Huskies
1984 Rayside-Balfour Canadians Elliot Lake Vikings
1985 Sudbury Cubs Capreol Hawks
1986 Onaping Falls Huskies Sudbury Cubs
1987 Nickel Centre Power Trains Sudbury Cubs
1988 Sudbury Cubs Elliot Lake Vikings
1989 Sudbury Cubs Rayside-Balfour Canadians
1990 Sudbury Cubs Rouyn-Noranda Capitales
1991 Sudbury Cubs Rayside-Balfour Canadians
1992 Powassan Hawks Rayside-Balfour Canadians
1993 Powassan Hawks Timmins Golden Bears
1994 Powassan Hawks Rouyn-Noranda Capitales
1995 Timmins Golden Bears Rouyn-Noranda Capitales
1996 Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats Sturgeon Falls Lynx
1997 Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats Sturgeon Falls Lynx
1998 Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats Parry Sound Shamrocks
1999 Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats Parry Sound Shamrocks
2000 Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats Sturgeon Falls Lynx
2001 Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats Soo Thunderbirds
2002 Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats Soo Thunderbirds
2003 North Bay Skyhawks Sault Ste. Marie Jr. Greyhounds
2004 North Bay Skyhawks Soo Thunderbirds
2005 North Bay Skyhawks Northern Michigan Black Bears
2006 Sudbury Jr. Wolves North Bay Skyhawks
2007 Soo Indians Sudbury Jr. Wolves
2008 Sudbury Jr. Wolves Abitibi Eskimos
East West
2009 North Bay Skyhawks Soo Thunderbirds
2010 Abitibi Eskimos Soo Thunderbirds
2011 Sudbury Jr. Wolves Soo Eagles
2012 North Bay Trappers Soo Thunderbirds
The league reverts to one division in 2013-14
Champion Finalist
2013 North Bay Trappers Soo Thunderbirds
2014 Kirkland Lake Gold Miners Soo Thunderbirds
2015 Soo Thunderbirds Cochrane Crunch
2016 Soo Thunderbirds Kirkland Lake Gold Miners
2017 Powassan Voodoos Blind River Beavers
2018 Cochrane Crunch Rayside-Balfour Canadians
2019 Hearst Lumberjacks Soo Thunderbirds
2020 Playoffs cancelled
2021 Playoffs cancelled
2022 [[Soo Thunderbirds Hearst Lumberjacks

Notes:The 2019-20 season was cancelled when Hockey Canada cancelled all play under its' jurisdiction on March 13, 2020. and the 2020-21 season was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic with only four teams actually playing through the whole season.

Dudley Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Champions

Year Champion Finalist Host (if applicable)
1997 Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats Milton Merchants (OPJHL) Summerside, PEI
2000 Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats Brampton Capitals (OPJHL) Fort McMurray, Alberta
2002 Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats Dryden Ice Dogs (SIJHL) Halifax, Nova Scotia
2012 Soo Thunderbirds Stouffville Spirit (OJHL) Thunder Bay, Ontario
2015 Soo Thunderbirds Fort Frances Lakers (SIJHL) Fort Frances, Ontario

Former Member Teams (Junior A Era)

Former Teams
Team Centre Joined Exited Status
Capreol Hawks Capreol, Ontario 1978 1986 Folded
Elliot Lake Bobcats Elliot Lake, Ontario 2014 2020 (sat out 2020-21 season. return for 2021-22) renamed Elliot Lake Red Wings
Elliot Lake Vikings Elliot Lake, Ontario 1981 1999 Folded
Nickel Centre Native Sons Nickel Centre, Ontario 1978 1987 Folded
Onaping Falls Huskies Onaping Falls, Ontario 1978 1986 Folded
Parry Sound Shamrocks Parry Sound, Ontario 1994 1999 Joined OPJHL
Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats Rayside-Balfour, Ontario 1978 2005 Folded
Rouyn-Noranda Capitales Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec 1989 1996 Folded
Soo Eagles Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan 1978 2012 Joined NAHL; return 2015
Sudbury Cubs Sudbury, Ontario 1978 1993 Folded
Temiscaming Royals Temiscaming, Quebec 2008 2011 Folded
Thessalon Flyers Thessalon, Ontario 1987 1990 Folded

League records

Team Season

  • Best Record, One Season:
40-0-0 - Sudbury, 1989-90
40-0-0 - Rayside-Balfour, 1999-00
  • Worst Record, One Season:
0-51-0-1 Blind River, 2014-15
  • Most Goals Scored, One Season:
482 - Rayside-Balfour, 1991-92
  • Least Goals Scored, One Season:
97 - Rayside-Balfour, 2003-04
  • Least Goals Against, One Season:
80 - Rayside-Balfour, 1999-00
  • Most Goals Against, One Season:
708 - Elliot Lake, 1991-92

Team Game

  • Largest margin of victory:
Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats 30 - Elliot Lake Vikings 3 on January 28, 1992

Individual Season

  • Most Goals, One Season:
97 - Denis Castonguay, Rayside Balfour, 1983-84
  • Most Assists, One Season:
106 - John Stos, Rayside Balfour, 1991-92
  • Most Points, One Season:
196 - Denis Castonguay, Rayside Balfour, 1983-84
  • Most Penalty Minutes, One Season:
384 - Andy Hodgins, Espanola, 1991-92
  • Lowest Goals Against Average, One Season:
1.99 - Justin Dumont, Rayside-Balfour, 1999-00
  • Most Shutouts, One Season:
5 - Frank Novello, Soo, 2000-01
5 - Martin Perrault, North Bay, 2003-04

Individual career

  • Most Games Played, Career:
224 - Matt Brunet, Abitibi/Soo, 2002-07
  • Most Goals, Career:
197 - Denis Castonguay, Rayside-Balfour, 1979-84
  • Most Assists, Career:
237 - Brian Verreault, Rayside-Balfour, 1979-84
  • Most Points, Career:
409 - Brian Verreault, Rayside-Balfour, 1979-84
  • Most Penalty Minutes, Career:
919 - Dean Bowles, Elliot Lake, 1986-91

Timeline of teams in the NOJHL

  • 1978 - NOHA Jr. B Hockey League is promoted to Junior A and renamed Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League - League includes: Sudbury Cubs, Nickel Centre Native Sons, Onaping Falls Huskies, Capreol Hawks, Rayside-Balfour Canadians, and Espanola Eagles
  • 1981 - Elliot Lake Vikings join from International Junior B Hockey League
  • 1982 - Sudbury Cubs become Sudbury North Stars
  • 1983 - Onaping Falls Huskies leave league
  • 1983 - Sudbury North Stars return to Sudbury Cubs
  • 1984 - Onaping Falls Huskies rejoin league
  • 1984 - Nickel Centre Native Sons leave league
  • 1985 - Nickel Centre Native Sons rejoin league
  • 1986 - Nickel Centre Native Sons renamed Nickel Centre Power Trains
  • 1986 - Rayside-Balfour Canadians, Capreol Hawks, and Onaping Falls Huskies leave league
  • 1987 - Rayside-Balfour Canadians rejoin league
  • 1987 - Thessalon Flyers join league
  • 1987 - Nickel Centre Power Trains leave league
  • 1988 - Espanola Eagles leave league, franchise sold to Haileybury 54's
  • 1989 - Rouyn-Noranda Capitales join league
  • 1990 - Thessalon Flyers leave league
  • 1990 - Haileybury 54's move and become Powassan Passport
  • 1991 - Timmins Golden Bears and Espanola Eagles join league
  • 1992 - Sudbury Cubs become Nickel Centre Cubs
  • 1992 - Powassan Passport become Powassan Hawks
  • 1993 - Nickel Centre Cubs leave league
  • 1994 - Parry Sound Shamrocks join league
  • 1994 - Powassan Hawks move and are renamed Sturgeon Falls Lynx
  • 1995 - Espanola Eagles leave league
  • 1995 - Rayside-Balfour Canadians renamed Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats
  • 1996 - Rouyn-Noranda Capitales disband to make way for Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
  • 1997 - Elliot Lake Vikings become Elliot Lake Ice
  • 1998 - Espanola Eagles rejoin league
  • 1999 - Timmins Golden Bears relocate and become Iroquois Falls Jr. Eskis
  • 1999 - Soo Thunderbirds join league
  • 1999 - Elliot Lake Ice leave league, franchise sold to Nickel Centre Barons
  • 1999 - Parry Sound Shamrocks move to the Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League
  • 2000 - Sudbury Northern Wolves join league
  • 2000 - Nickel Centre Barons move and are renamed Blind River Barons
  • 2001 - Blind River Barons renamed Blind River Barons
  • 2002 - Iroquois Fals Jr. Eskis are renamed Abitibi Eskimos
  • 2002 - Sturgeon Falls Lynx move to North Bay and become the North Bay Skyhawks
  • 2002 - Soo Thunderbirds are renamed Sault Ste. Marie Jr. Greyhounds
  • 2003 - Espanola Screaming Eagles move to St. Ignace, Michigan and become the Northern Michigan Black Bears
  • 2003 - Little Current awarded expansion franchise Manitoulin Wild
  • 2003 - Sault Ste. Marie Jr. Greyhounds return to Soo Thunderbirds
  • 2005 - Manitoulin Wild become Manitoulin Islanders
  • 2005 - Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats are granted a one-year leave of absence
  • 2005 - Sudbury Northern Wolves become Sudbury Jr. Wolves
  • 2006 - Northern Michigan Black Bears are relocated and renamed Soo Indians
  • 2006 - Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats officially fold
  • 2007 - Soo Indians take one year leave in search of new ownership
  • 2008 - Temiscaming Royals join from Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League
  • 2008 - Soo Indians return, renamed Soo Eagles
  • 2009 - North Bay Skyhawks are renamed North Bay Trappers
  • 2011 - Temiscaming Royals leave league
  • 2011 - Manitoulin Islanders move and become Kirkland Lake Blue Devils
  • 2011 - Sudbury Jr. Wolves are renamed Sudbury Cubs
  • 2012 - Kirkland Lake Blue Devils fold/return as Kirkland Lake Gold Miners
  • 2012 - Sudbury Cubs are renamed the Sudbury Nickel Barons
  • 2012 - Soo Eagles join the NAHL
  • 2012 - Kirkland Lake Blue Devils are renamed Kirkland Lake Gold Miners
  • 2012 - Elliot Lake Bobcats join the league
  • 2013 - Espanola Rivermen join the league as an expansion team to be based in Eel River
  • 2014 - North  Bay Trappers are sold and move to become the Mawata Blackhawks
  • 2014 - The Elliot Lake Bobcats are relocated and renamed the Cochrane Crunch.  They are replaced in Elliot Lake by the Wildcats
  • 2014 - The Espanola Rivermen withdraw to join the Canadian International Hockey League.
  • 2014 - The Powassan Voodoos are added as an expansion team
  • 2015 - The Abitti Eskimos relocate to Timmins where they are renamed the Timmins Rock
  • 2015 - The Sudbury Nickel Barons relocate to Rayside-Balfour where they are renamed the Canadians
  • 2015 - Epanola is awarded an expansion team to replace the Rivermen, they are called the Espanola Express
  • 2015 - Noelville is awarded an expansion team that takes the name French River Rapids
  • 2015 - The Soo Eagles return to the league after leaving the North American Hockey League when they become the only team left in the league from the state of Michigan
  • 2017 - The Iroquois Falls Eskis relocate to Hearst and are renamed the Hearst Lumberjacks
  • 2020 - The Elliot Lake Wildcats sitout the season due to COVID-19 pandemic and organizational operations change, seven of the other 11 teams in the league end up dropping out for the season due to local restrictions.
  • 2021 - The Elliot Lake Red Wings return to play after being renamed from the Wildcats.
  • 2021 - The Rayside-Balfour Canadians relocate to Sudbury, where they are named the Greater Sudbury Cubs


See also


External links

This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Ice Hockey Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0 (Unported) (CC-BY-SA).