It's the second week of August, so save for the trade embargo lifting on August 1st, these should be quiet days in the Ontario Hockey League until training camps open up later in the month. That statement could not be farther from the truth as there are several pressing an issue casting a shadow over the Ontario Hockey League right now.
ITEM 1: LEAGUE COMES DOWN ON WINDSOR HARD
$400 000, three first round draft picks and two second round draft picks. Harsh justice indeed for the Windsor Spitfires whose player recruitment tactics were seen to be outside of the leagues rules for such a thing. An investigation that began in 2010 concluded this week with Commissioner David Branch dropping the hammer down on the Spits. Lots of speculation, and lots of people want names named, which to me speaks more to the curiosity factor or a zest to be in the know rather than anything altruistic. Though this blog is not "traditional media", and not exactly the Washington Post, speculating, to me, would be foolish on this end. You can probably do a little investigative research and come up with a short list of players worthy of scrutiny, but the bottom line is the league figures that they did their due diligence, while Windsor maintains their innocence. I have no doubt that 19 other OHL owners likely did a very careful Q and A with the GM/Coach/Head Scout etc, and a forensic investigation of their roster recruitment. Will there be more shoes to drop? Not going to speculate, investigate or take an educated guest. This is is a blog, and I'm a play by play guy, not 60 Minutes.
It has been a busy off-season in Windsor as there was already controversy afoot when all three of the TV broadcasters were replaced/dismissed/phased out/ going through a period of transition- choose your poison. Dom Papa, Bill Kelso and Brian Trenholm are all not being welcomed back, with Papa and Kelso doing plenty of talking in the press about the process. Regardless it appears that there will be a new crew in Windsor in the upcoming season.
ITEM 2: AUGUST 31ST LOOMS FOR THE BATTALION
It has been no secret that fan support has ranged from sporadic to non-existent for the OHL in the GTA. Both Mississauga and Brampton have had trouble sustaining a consistent fan base. Mississauga has chosen the re branding route to dry and drum up support, as they are know the Steelheads. Brampton will know their immediate OHL future as of August 31st when their lease at the Powerade Centre is up. Try as they might the Battalion have only drawn about 2000 fans, sometimes less on a nightly basis. It is wondered if their owner is willing to absorb another lease of potential loss. The Powerade Centre is more than a suitable OHL home, though with hard blue plastic benches behind one net, it does have an unfinished look to it. Talk of a new scoreboard appears to have gone by the wayside, though I hardily doubt a new scoreboard will draw in the casual fan. If the lease is not renewed days could be numbered for Brampton as an OHL franchise. This would be a shame, as Brampton has had a number of very good teams, with Stan Butler as the constant. He has been with the franchise as their Head Coach since Day One.
ITEM 3: ERIE MOVES TRAINING CAMP TO ANCASTER
With the former Tullio Arena, undergoing extensive renovations, the Erie Otters with phenom Connor McDavid in toe, will take their training camp on the road, eschewing sites such as Newmarket and Fort Erie, for, wait for it....Ancaster! This may raise a few eyebrows as speculation had bombastic owner Sherwood Bassin kicking the tires in Hamilton as recently as May as he sought a new lease in Erie. This was first reported by the Spectators' Scott Radley, a reporter not known for fiction, but rather a solid reporter who prefers to deal with the facts. Now, the choice of Ancaster may just be convenient scheduling and a nice arena to work from, but the conspiracist may think there is more to the choice. Irregardless, the move is a nice coup for Ancaster who will get to see the aforementioned David, author of over 200 points in minor midget last year and everybody's choice for the next big thing.
TV Cogeco kicks of its broadcasting schedule for the Niagara Ice Dogs with Exhibition games on Thursday September 6 (Erie) and Saturday September 15h (Sudbury) Niagara will get the first regular season look at McDavid on Thursday September 20th as Erie will be guests at Niagara's home opener.
Myself, Ed Burkholder and Al Galloway are all back for our 6th season of home coverage.