OJHL Games Falling Flat


Gather around folks and I'll let you in on a little secret.

Ready? Okay, here goes. The majority of you are missing out on some damn fine hockey games. How do I know? Simply by looking at the attendance figures of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
I think it's an absolute shame a pair of OJHL franchises - North York Rangers and Toronto Junior Canadiens - are averaging less than 100 fans per home contest. A whopping nine clubs are not faring much better, drawing an average of less than 200 spectators per match.

For those who are mathematically challenged that means most nights players from 50 per cent of the squads in the 22-team league are primarily playing in front of parents, family members and the odd girlfriend.
Only three franchises, Wellington Dukes, Cobourg Cougars and Oakville Blades, average more than 400 onlookers per home game - still not a lofty number considering the high quality of play most nights.

Granted the OJHL is a step below the Ontario Hockey League, long considered a main feeder system for the National Hockey League.
But there are still plenty of talented athletes showcasing their skills at OJHL rinks this year. This list includes Jake Walman (Toronto Jr. Canadiens), Jake Evans (St. Michael's Buzzers) and Michael Prapevessis.
All three OJHL stars are listed on the Central Scouting mid-term rankings of players who could very well be selected in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft this June.

Forking over about $10 to sit anywhere in any OJHL rink to see some future pro or collegiate players shouldn't be a lot to ask for.
Walman, Evans and Prapevessis will all be taking their talents to NCAA schools next season. It remains to be seen whether all three of them, or any of them, are indeed drafted by an NHL franchise.

Regardless of where their career paths lead, I'll be keeping an eye out not only for these three individuals but for many other OJHL athletes this season. Dozens of others currently toiling in the league will be heading south to commence their collegiate careers next year. Many others will move up and suit up for OHL squads. And numerous others will move on to Canadian universities.

I'll be keeping tabs on them and that's not just because I get paid to be a sportswriter. 

I also take great pleasure in seeing hockey players move up through the ranks. And not to sound like an old grandpa (I'm not even a young grandpa yet) but I do relish the fact when I can tell somebody I remember watching this guy or that guy play his junior hockey.
Just the other day I was asked whether I remember Devin Shore. Most hockey fans in Ontario have probably never heard of him.
No disrespect but it was kind of a stupid question asking whether I remember Shore. Just two years ago I was watching him in his one and only season with the OJHL's Whitby Fury. After his impressive rookie campaign with the Fury, Shore was selected by the Dallas Stars in the second round of  the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Shore, who is now a sophomore at the University of Maine, is now considered a candidate for the Hobey Baker Award, annually presented to the top player in the U.S. college ranks. An NHL career might not be far away for Shore.

 So here's a bit of advice for those who care to take it. Next time you have a free night and are wondering what to do, you don't necessarily have to settle for watching a game between say the Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers from the comfort of your living room.

Venture out to the nearest OJHL rink and catch some teenagers playing their hearts out and pursuing their dream. There's a good chance you'll be pleased and want to head back to another game soon.
Tags: OJHL

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