Hockey: The cat Nip is out of the bag...

"The North Bay Skyhawks are likely out as the main tenant at Memorial Gardens after next season and a new Nipissing Lakers men's varsity hockey team is in.

"That was the message delivered Sunday by Skyhawks management, who decided togo public with the issue by calling a media conference." -- North Bay Nugget
This sort of reads as a pre-emptive strike fired by the Junior A club. It is threatening to fold and hang on to the junior hockey rights for the area so no junior team can move in with Hockey Canada's blessing -- in other words, make Nip U look like Larry Tanenbaum in a mortorboard.
"... after an initial meeting between the two groups Saturday, it appeared the revenue pie provided by arena advertising rights isn't sufficient enough to operate both programs effectively."
Obviously, given the focus of this site, it would be great to see another Canadian university get in the game for men's hockey (and women's hockey in good time, right?). One point that should be stressed is that ideally, any school wishing to ice varsity hockey should have its own campus rink, so these rob-Peter, pay-Paul situations don't crop up.

Hopefully, the people in North Bay do what's right for North Bay. The timing and the tide might be right for CIS hockey in Ontario's North.

One question in the long, long, long term is realignment if Nipissing and McMaster (does anyone know what's going on there?) push the OUA up to 20 teams.

There doesn't seem to be a satisfactory way to put Brock, Guelph, Lakekead, Laurier, McMaster, Nipissing, Waterloo, Western, Windsor and York into two five-team groups without irking someone. McMaster would probably want to play traditional Southern Ontario rivals, while Nipissing would probably want a Northern Ontario with Lakehead.

It might be the spur for the OUA to finally drop that byzantine four-division setup, with its "Mid-East" and "Far West," and just have two 10-team conferences. Each team can play a home-and-home in the conference (18 games) and play each team on the other side once for a 28-game schedule.

Of course, going to 20 teams might be used to justify having 16 playoff spots, which would be just as bad as major junior hockey. The university game is better off having teams earn their spot.

UPDATE, 3:40 p.m., May 6: Just doing our rock 'n' roll duty to pass along Ken Pagan's latest on hockey at Nip U... : Process underway for Nipissing hockey squad; Plenty of details still to be worked out for 2009-10
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  1. I like the idea of two conferences and dropping the divisions: for one, it would mean that we didn't see ridiculous things like Queen's being seeded higher than McGill this year despite a worse record. It also would lead to a lot less laughter from my editors whenever I wrote something along the lines of "Queen's leads the Mid-East" or "McGill tops in Far East": seriously, those are terrible division names.

  2. I like it too. It's really easy to divide the teams into two sets of 10: Toronto and west; east and north (assuming one expansion team goes into each group). Anything to get rid of the names--when I hear "Far East" I don't really think "Sandy Hill."

    Let's also hope they don't add any more playoff teams. 12 out of 18 was already too many, but that might be the baseball fan in me talking.

  3. Twenty-four hours and Tyler hasn't popped off yet about the Queen's Journal. I salute this new, magnanimous, benevolent Tyler King.

  4. Haha, I think he may not have seen it yet... either that, or the original post and my comment weren't sufficiently Journal-related to deserve his scorn. The other possibility is that he’s moved on to bigger targets, such as MLS (or that a mob of angry TFC fans tracked him down).

  5. Oh, and I agree with you and Rob that there's plenty of playoff spots already... no need to add any more, even with expansion.

  6. North Bay Hockey Fans are literally starving for high calibre hockey. Hockeyville 2007 is ready to embrace & welcome CIS Hockey to town.

    Just a note, the Skyhawks & Lakers are working out a deal to see both clubs operate out of Memorial Gardens for 2009-10. As much as it would be nice to develop a rivalry with our neighbour wayyyy to the northwest in Thunder Bay, but it will be next to impossible to group Nipissing & Lakehead in the same division. North Bay (although closer to Thunder Bay than any other OUA hockey market) is still a 12 hour drive (in one direction) from Thunder Bay. And most if not all of that drive would be on a two lane highway. So it would be reasonable that Nipissing would have to fly.

    Nipissing is much closer to markets like Oshawa & Toronto than London & Windsor as well. I wasn't aware of McMaster putting in an entry for 2009-10 but here's a potential divisional setup: