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Why Major Junior Hockey?
It’s no surprise to learn that North Americans are crazy about their sports. Whether its gridiron battles that take place Sundays during the winter or the basketball playoffs that take place every May or the summer time baseball battles, it’s hard to resist the allure of professional sports. However, one of the biggest problems that come with increased coverage of professional sports is the increased distancing between professional athletes and the fans.
After all, it’s hard for any fan to completely sympathize with a professional athlete that is refusing to play a season for millions of dollars until they get a new deal that is worth even more millions of dollars. Additionally, professional sports seem to be filled with knuckleheads that are intent on destroying the unique opportunity that they have by getting into legal trouble. From allegations to dog fighting to sexual assaults to domestic abuse, it seems that every day we are greeted with headlines of another one of our favorite athletes being arrested for something silly.
For some sports enthusiasts, professional sports are missing the passion of earlier times. It seems like today’s athletes act more as friends than the adversaries that they are supposed to be. To these sports enthusiasts, they are looking for the desperate passion of athletes that aren’t playing for the money, but rather for the love of the game. It is for this reason that more and more sports fans are turning to amateur sports for their sports fix.
While there is a valid criticism that amateur sports leagues do not quiet match the level of play of professional sports leagues, it makes up for it with the frenzied passion. Every March, fans are tuned to their televisions to watch the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. There’s something about kids playing to win and also to increase their value when it comes time to start their professional career in single elimination games that can’t be beat. You often get your heart broken watching these kids tear up when they aren’t able to win the game despite playing their hardest, but there’s also something so admirable about the passion.
One of the most unfortunate setbacks in professional hockey is how much the game has changed in the last decade. Rapid expansion has diluted the quality of the teams in the game and many of these expansion teams are playing to empty seats in indifferent markets. Additionally, the National Hockey League (NHL) has had the extra difficulty of coming back from a couple of work stoppages in the last decade. As the league attempts to get its financial matters in order, they have struggle to increase the game’s visibility on television and to change perceptions that they are slipping away as one of the top four professional leagues in North America.
While professional hockey has been in shambles in recent years, major junior hockey in America and Canada have flourished. As the conduit for many future professional hockey stars, it is a truly amazing experience to be able to see the future of professional hockey while they are still playing for free and for the love of the game. The shorter schedules in major junior hockey leads to truly frenzied games that will leave casual hockey fans begging for more action. Additionally unlike the National Hockey League (NHL), major junior hockey has been operating under stable conditions for the last few years and has established several tournaments that are just a notch below the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs in prestige.
Although hockey is generally thought to be Canada’s game, it is making major strides in America as well. Major junior hockey has gained increased national attention for its ability to produce transcendental stars, legendary hockey games, and a system that is fan friendly. Find out more about the main league in North American Major Junior Hockey – The Canadian Hockey League (CHL).
The Canadian Hockey League (CHL)
While the NHL has most of its teams concentrated in the United States of America, its biggest base of support lies in its neighbor to the north – Canada. Canadians aren’t known to be overly passionate about anything, but this is not true when it comes to their national game – hockey. In a country where water spots freeze over and make it convenient to play hockey on, Canadians are born with hockey in their blood. Canadian kids spend much of their free time playing ice hockey, emulating hockey fights, begging their parents to get them new hockey equipment, staying in on Saturday nights to watch hockey night in canada, trying out new hockey sticks, dissing field hockey, and basically just having hockey on the brain.
Although the ultimate goal for aspiring Canadian hockey players is to make it to the pros, every kid understands that to do this, you have to make a big impression on potential teams in a major junior hockey league. The biggest amateur hockey league in Canada is the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). The CHL is actually not so much a league, as it is a governing body for three smaller leagues – the Western Hockey League (WHL), the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). The CHL is a league that has an age limit – you have to be between 15 and 20 years old to participate. Many of today’s biggest hockey stars cut their teeth and buttressed their reputations in the trenches of the CHL. Studies have shown that half of the hockey placers that were participating in the NHL in 2005 had played their major junior hockey in the CHL. This major junior hockey league is one of the most successful leagues in North America and has even been part of a running segment on the popular comedy show, The Colbert Report.
What makes the CHL so fascinating is the way that it is organized. The league is home to three separate leagues that are located in three different areas in North America. The Western Hockey League (whl) began in 1966 and is currently home to twenty two teams that are located in the western parts of Canada and the Pacific Northwest in America. The league is made up of two conferences (Eastern Conference and Western Conference) and four divisions (East, Central, B.C., and U.S.) The teams in the whl are: Brandon Wheat Kings, Moose Jaw Warriors, Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades, Swift Current Broncos, Calgary Hitmen, Edmonton Oil Kings, Kootenay Ice, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Medicine Hat Tigers, Red Deer Rebels, Kamloops Blazers, Chilliwack Bruins, Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Prince George Cougars, Vancouver Giants, Everett Silvertips, Portland Winter Hawks, Seattle Thunderbirds, Spokane Chiefs, and the Tri-City Americans.
The Western Hockey League has produced its fair share of NHL superstars including the legendary Bobby Orr. Considering how much hockey has prospered in the western parts of North America, it is not surprising to learn that the whl is one of the most successful major junior hockey leagues currently in existence.
The second league that is associated with the chl is the Ontario Hockey League (ohl). The league came into fruition in 1980 and has teams in the southeastern parts of Canada and America. The league is one of the most visible of the major junior hockey leagues and has produced a feud between the Saginaw Spirit and the Oshawa Generals that was largely perpetrated by fake political pundit, Stephen Colbert. The league is made up of two conferences (Eastern Conference and Western Conference) and four divisions (East, Central, Midwest, and West). The twenty teams that comprise the ohl are: Belleville Bulls, Kingston Frontenacs, Oshawa Generals, Ottawa 67’s, Peterborough Petes, Barrie Colts, Brampton Battalion, Niagara IceDogs, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, Sudbury Wolves, Erie Otters, Guelph Storm, Kitchener Rangers, London Knights, Owen Sound Attack, Plymouth Whalers, Saginaw Spirit, Sarnia Sting, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and the Windsor Spitfires.
The third league that is part of the CHL is the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). This league primarily has teams in the eastern Atlantic Canadian provinces and a few teams in Maine. This tiny league has produced a number of NHL stalwarts and has made itself a major junior hockey league to be reckoned with. The qmjhl is comprised of two divisions (Eastern Division and Telus Division) with eighteen teams in total. The teams that make up the qmjhl are: Acadie-Bathurst Titan, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Halifax Mooseheads, Lewiston MAINEiacs, Moncton Wildcats, P.E.I. Rocket, Saint John Sea Dogs, St. John’s Fog Devils, Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Chicoutimi Saguenéens, Drummondville Voltigeurs, Gatineau Olympiques, Québec Remparts, Rimouski Océanic, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Shawinigan Cataractes, Val-d’Or Foreurs, and Victoriaville Tigres.
The major appeal that lies in the CHL is in its championship tournament – The Memorial Cup. The Memorial Cup determines the champions of major junior hockey league and is a tournament that brings together the champions of the ohl, qmjhl, and the whl. Each year, a team is chosen to be the host of the tournament and they are given an automatic entrance into the prestigious tournament. Dating back to 1919, the Memorial Cup is one of the oldest sports championships in North America. The four teams battle each other out in a round robin stage with each team playing three games each. From there, the second and third place team in the tournament play each other to determine who will play the first place team in the Memorial Cup championship. The tournament is one of the most popular in North American major junior hockey sports and is a great stepping stone for these amateur hockey stars to make an impression on professional NHL teams.
How You Can Get Involved
If anything, major junior hockey teams need your support more than the professional NHL. Consider what is at stake for these young kids playing their hearts out in the CHL – their future livelihood and a chance to be immortalized as a major junior hockey champion. These players will tell you how important their home crowd is to boosting their energy and the play in the CHL is something to truly behold. For people who want to show their true colors and support their favorite CHL team, here is your chance to meet likeminded people like yourself. Find the best major junior hockey ring for you and get involved in our excellent Major Junior Hockey Fan Forum today!