The Municipality of Tweed, just north of Belleville, was announced Monday afternoon as the 12th and final team to join a vastly expanded Eastern Ontario Super Hockey League.
For EOSHL president Mitch Gagne, who started the league two years ago and is the Cornwall Prowlers coach/general manager, it’s an exciting accomplishment to have met a spring goal that sets the table for what should be an interesting 2021-22 campaign.
“I’m ecstatic the way the league has come along,” Gagne said in a phone conversation shortly after the announcement. “We had just four teams the first season (in 2019-20) but there was a lot of interest (from other communities), they saw the talent level and the fun (brand of hockey).
“I wanted this league to grow and get to 12 one day, but not even in my wildest dreams would I have thought we could do this in this short amount of time.”
Gagne considered it a whirlwind weekend, with potentially two new teams being admitted and moving the number to 13, and a lot of scenarios were discussed in conference calls amongst club owners/representatives. Until Monday’s vote, it wasn’t certain at all how things would unfold.
With 11 teams in the league as of late in the winter due to a flurry of pandemic expansion – and with a goal of 12 clubs by a May 1 deadline – two more applications did come in: from Tweed, and Gloucester.
“All 11 owners met (virtually) on Sunday to discuss the entries and scenarios of possibly taking both teams,” Gagne said.
On Monday, it was vote time, the final result being as follows: Tweed seven votes; Gloucester 0 votes; both teams joining four votes.
“Both Tweed and Gloucester put forth very solid, reasonable and attractive applications,” Gagne said.
Cornwall-based EOSHL expects to name a 12th franchise by May 1
No season, but now a 11 teams for Eastern Ontario Super league
No Cornwall Prowlers season, but 2021-22 season to be dressed to the nines
In a social media post after the results, Gagne said “location is a key (consideration) in senior hockey and with already five teams within an hour of each other in the East, I believe the final vote was a reflection of this matter (and desire to add another team in the West).”
Could the league have made it work with 13 clubs, bringing Gloucester on board too? Gagne believes so; one scenario had two divisions, seven teams in the East and six in the West, with very little inter-league play and instead a focus on fostering rivalries based on geography/division.
But in the end, it’ll be a 12-team, mostly-balanced schedule, meaning home-and-home dates with each club, and likely a couple of extra games against a close geographical opponent.
The entire 2020-21 campaign was wiped out by the pandemic, but the senior A league had steady announcements of new franchises, including Gananoque and the South Grenville Rangers (Cardinal) late in February. It’s also been announced the EOSHL annual draft will be held late this month, on May 30. The four-round draft will be updated live with every pick on the league Facebook page.
And, the Prowlers on Sunday announced Yves Leger – the first of many outstanding goaltenders to play for the Jr. A Cornwall Colts over the last three decades – has joined coaching staff.
“Yves is well-known (in Cornwall) for the great goaltending he displayed in four years in the (CCHL),” Gagne said. “Yves won top goalie in the (league formerly called the CJHL) in 1992-93 and earned second team all-star honors in 1993-94. He’ll bring a winning attitude and lots of positive energy to our club.”