By Darryl G. Smart
At the end of every hockey season, Todd Wood goes around the dressing room and shakes every player’s hand, thanking them for what they did on and off the ice for his Paris Mounties. When it came time to shake the overage player’s hands, there has always been a feeling of sadness that comes over the owner of the franchise.
“You can see it in their eyes,” Wood said. “It’s the end of an era. For almost every single one it’s the end of competitive hockey. It’s something they’ve all done since they were five, and now it’s all over.”
That’s when Wood began to think about providing something different. And now what was an idea a couple of years ago has resulted in the Graduate League. The G-League as it is known, is the senior AA division of Allan Cup Hockey. It will be for players that have played for a OHA team age 21 to 28.
“We’re really excited about this,” Wood said. “It really does fill a void for the OHA and it provides something for a lot of guys wanting to play the game on a competitive level. There are a lot of guys that just aren’t ready for beer league yet.”
Wood said the only thing out there for players beyond junior hockey if they aren’t playing at the collegiate or professional level is ACH.
“Allan Cup Hockey is a great league and we’re happy to be teaming up with them for this,” Wood said. “You don’t see a lot of guys coming from junior C or even junior B to that league. Allan Cup Hockey is full of former pros.”
And that’s where the G-League will fill the gap, with a number of rules to keep the competitive balance of the league.
Each team in the league must have up to four Canadian Hockey League, U Sports or NCAA players (Category 1), up to 13 players from the Greater Ontario Hockey League or Ontario Junior Hockey League (Category 2) – or a combination of up to 13 from 1 and 2, with up to 11 former Provincial Junior Hockey League player. Teams are also allowed one goalie from categories 1 and 2.
As far as the number of players, each team will have 45 registration certificates, with an active roster of 24 set by Feb. 10. There are no releases after that deadline.
“This is a league for the players,” Wood said. “So there will be no trades during the season and all players will become free agents at the end of each season. We don’t want teams holding players. This is all about them getting out and playing the game we all love.”
The G-League’s affiliation agreement is also player-driven. Wood said teams will not be affiliated with one another. It is up to the individual players and ACH teams to affiliate with each other.
“This is something that will make sure teams aren’t stockpiling players. We want guys to get to the next level,” Wood said. In this case it’s Allan Cup Hockey.”
Right after the league’s announcement to begin play in October, Woods made the first big splash, uprooting the Mounties from the PJHL to the G-League.
“It just made sense,” Wood said. “I’m the type of guy that likes to do things that are different. I see an opportunity here and I want to take it. I’ve got players asking when it will get going.”
On Tuesday, the Mounties signed the league’s first-ever player, Cameron Stokes, who played two seasons for the PJHL team.
The Hamilton Henchmen are the second team in the loop. They are owned by Tim Wilson, who owns the PJHL Dundas Blues and GOJHL Hamilton Kilty B’s.
Wood said the aim is to have four teams for sure, but would love to have more. He thinks Norfolk or Haldimand would be a great place for another franchise.
“There are so many junior teams in this area,” said Wood, who now calls Peacock Point home. “There are some great arenas and towns that are growing. If we get teh right people involved it would be a real win.”
For more information on the league, team or franchise opportunities, email email@example.com.