By Darryl G. Smart
It’s no secret that it has been a very tough several seasons for the Delhi Travellers. And after what could arguably be one of the toughest any junior hockey team has seen, the Travellers are taking a one-year hiatus from the Ontario Hockey Association’s Provincial Junior Hockey League.
“I can confirm that Delhi has been approved for a one-year leave of absence by the PJHL and the OHA,” PJHL commissioner Terry Whiteside said.
It’s a decision that has haunted Travellers president Chris Longthorne since handing in the notice to the OHA office.
“This was a real tough decision,” Longthorne said. “It’s something I’ve struggled with and thought about every day.”
The Travellers brass hope it’s a year to rebound on and off the ice.
Off the ice, the Travellers, like many teams are feeling the squeeze as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team relies on its fundraisers and local sponsors to fund the team. Many of those businesses are also feeling the crunch from the pandemic.
On the ice, the Travellers went 0-40, scoring a PJHL worst 47 goals and allowing 532. During the season, Travellers president Chris Longthorne said despite having problems getting some players to commit, he was happy that a good core of kids didn’t give up on the season.
“Some of these kids gave it their all,” Longthorne said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Longthorne attributed many of the Travellers problems to when the Ontario Hockey Association merged what was the Southern Ontario Junior Hockey League (junior D) into the various junior C loops.
“That’s been the problem for a bunch of small centre teams like us,” Longthorne said early in the season. “We could compete in junior D because we were small, like everyone else. Mix us in with the junior C teams, and this is what you get. Haves and have nots. We’re competing with cities and large towns.”
Unfortunately the Travellers’ time in junior C hasn’t been kind. In seven seasons, they are 16-260-1-2. And this year was the second time the team has gone 0-40. The last time was during the 2014-15 season.
NOT THE FIRST TIME
Unfortunately for Delhi’s junior hockey club, this isn’t the first time they have taken a one-year hiatus.
After a dismal 5-29-1-3 record during the 1998-99 season, which was the club’s worst record to that date since its inception in 1960, the Delhi Leafs took the 1999-00 off and returned the next season as the Travellers.
The Travellers eventually became a league powerhouse, getting to the provincial junior D final twice in 2005-06 and 2006-07, while finishing second in the SOJHL in five-straight seasons 2005-2010.
JUNIOR HOCKEY IN DELHI
Delhi’s junior hockey teams were the Rockets from 1960 to 1972, Flames from 1972 to 1991, Leafs from 1991-1998, and finally the Travellers from 1998 to the present.
The Delhi Flames thrived in the 1980s. During the 1980-81 season the Flames were second in the Southern Counties Junior D Hockey League regular season, before winning the league title in the playoffs. But then they were swept by the Belmont Bombers in the OHA Cup final.
In the 1985-86 season, the Flames won another Southern Counties title. Unfortunately a provincial title eluded them again, losing 4-1 to the Seaforth Centenairs in the OHA Cup.
AROUND THE OHA
The Travelers are not the only team in the OHA taking a one-year hiatus.
Joining them are the Whitby Dunlops, of Allan Cup Hockey, Buffalo Regals, of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, and the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Buffalo Jr. Sabres.
“There are many factors that played into this decision, including protecting the legacy of the Dunlop brand but a proper business plan was assessed and it concluded that we need the break,” Dunlops owner Ian Young said.
While the Travellers and Dunlops hope to solve some off-ice issues, the two teams from Buffalo are taking the year off because of the border closure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.