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January 13, 2008

Junior Hockey in Canada: The Ontario Hockey League, 2007-08 season.

Filed under: Canada,Canada>OHL,Hockey — admin @ 7:25 am

Please note: I have made a more recent map-and-post of the OHL (April 2016), here:
Ontario Hockey League (OHL): location-map with: 2015-16 attendance data, OHL titles & CHL/Memorial Cup titles listed/+ illustrations for the 6 OHL teams with the best-percent-capacity figures in 2015-16 (Oshawa Generals, London Knights, Kitchener Rangers, Barrie Colts, Guelph Storm, Niagara IceDogs).
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ontario_hockey_post2.gif



I have family in Canada.  Several relations there have wondered why I haven’t focused on Canadian Hockey, here on this site.  This should keep them happy, for a while.

The Ontario Hockey League, or OHL, is one of 3 junior hockey leagues based in Canada.  The 3 leagues constitute the Canadian Hockey League.  The other two are the WHL (the Western Hockey League), and the QMJHL (the Qubec Major Junior Hockey League).  All three leagues are for players aged 15 to 20.  All three leagues have a few teams from the United States in them.  The OHL has 3 American clubs: 2 from Michigan (which is a hotbed for minor-league hockey), and 1 from Pennsylvania.  [The QMJHL has just one US team, from Maine; the WHL has 5 US teams, all from the Pacific Northwest.]   {Find out more about the CHL, here.}

When I decided to do a map of the OHL, I figured most teams would average around 2 or 3,000 per game.  Actually, the median is more like 3,500.   This is pretty respectable, when you consider that this is basically a developmental league for teenagers.  And there are some pretty solid draws in this league.  The London Knights are the attendance leaders, at 9,000, this season.  But they hadn’t translated their ability to draw crowds into any sort of success on ice, until two years ago, when they finally won an OHL Title.  Ottawa has an NHL franchise, yet still shows solid support for it’s junior club, the Ottawa 67′s: they are getting 7,700 per game this season.  The Kitchener Rangers are the other “big” club in this league: their average gate this season is 5,900.

The most successful clubs on the ice, historically, are two clubs northeast of Toronto.  The Oshawa Generals got their name from their first sponsor, General Motors.  They have won 12 OHL Titles, but they haven’t won one since 1997.  The Peterborough Petes have won 9 OHL Titles, their last in 2006.  Oshawa is drawing decent crowds (4,700); the Petes less so (2,900).  But Peterborough is not a big city, with a population of around 75,000.  Speaking of small towns, check out Owen Sound.  Nestled at the foot of the Bruce Peninsula, on the shore of the beautiful Georgian Bay, this hamlet of 22,000 really supports it’s team…2,400 per game, or over 10% of the town’s occupants.  I guess they’re like the Green Bay Packers of junior hockey.  They used to be called the Platers, after an electro-plating company that owned them.  Why the heck did they change their name ?  The Owen Sound Platers is like the coolest name I’ve heard in ages.

Speaking of interesting names, try these on for size.  [All these are defunct teams, of course.]   The Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters (after a local hat company);  the St. Catherines Teepees (in the days before political correctness);  the Hamilton Fincups (an amalgamation of the two family names of the owners);  the Port Colborne Recreationalists;  and my favorite, the Stratford Midgets, which sounds like a band of Shakespearian dwarves.

One more thing about names.  The Plymouth Whalers actually do have a connection to the old Hartford Whalers, of WHA, and NHL (circa 1980′s and 90′s) fame.  They are owned by the same group that owns the Carolina Hurricanes (whom the Hartford Whalers morphed into).  And again with the small-town theme: Plymouth is 25 miles west of Detroit, with a population of around 28,000.  The Plymouth Whalers are the reigning champions of the OHL. 

Special thanks to the Niagara Ice Dogs Fans Forum, and “Strohs,” a puck-head accountant with a good deal of time on his hands.  He did the numbers-crunching; I stumbled onto it.

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