GNML looks to move forward while questions remain in Sudbury
by Randy Pascal
Change is in the air, once again, for the Great North Midget League, with the start of the 2018-2019 season roughly one month away. That's not
all that shocking, when one considers that the top item on that list of changes comes in the form of the naming of Albert Corradini as league
Never one to be particularly shy about ruffling some feathers along the way, Corradini, the long-time general manager of the Sudbury Nickel Capital
Wolves, replaces Kapuskasing native Darren Potvin, after just one year in the seat for the latter.
Potvin, apparently, was anxious to resume a much more active involvement in his hometown hockey scene (see interview with Darren Potvin below)
after following in the footsteps of Bob McLean, the Sudbury native who held the role of commissioner for a seven to eight year stretch.
As for Corradini, he has wasted little time working towards instilling some of his vision for the northern Ontario midget "AAA" hockey loop. In addition
to providing live TV access to all games (via Hockey TV) and piloting the use on on-line scoresheets for the upcoming campaign, the GNML has also
enacted affiliation rules aimed at dealing with the confusion of having minor and midget "AAA" entries, from the same centre, competing in the league.
"In the beginning, when the minors were first welcomed into the league, there was supposed to be affiliation allowed between the minor midget (AAA)
teams and the major midgets," said Corradini. "Come the playoffs, when their season was over, we had always said it was our intention to affiliate."
Now, everybody will have the ability to affiliate players from these teams. In each city that has both a minor midget and major midget team in the
league, the majors will be allowed to protect six players from their own minor midget team.
"That should leave us with about 36 players that are unprotected from those minor teams", stated Corradini. "We then will have a draft of the remaining players, with all
of the major teams in our league involved. You can choose anybody you want. You have to give Timmins, Kapuskasing and New Liskeard something."
There are stipulations, however. The major teams cannot call up any players if it conflicts with anything on their minor midget schedule. Teams will not
be allowed to sign a "light roster" and then top up with affiliates. The number of players signed at the beginning of the season, by the majors, will
dictate the maximum allowable call up.
This final condition will fall to the wayside when major teams reach the OHF championships, assuming that the respective minor midget teams have
completed their season (which should, theoretically, always be the case, giving the timing of the Central Regional playdowns).
In order to enact this agreement, the GNML approached the NOHA and received special dispensation, as parties involved looked to a compromise that could
provide something of benefit to both minor and major franchises in the league, as well as to northern Ontario minor midget talent, looking to attract the
attention of OHL scouts.
Corradini is hopeful that this is just the beginning of a move forward that can help a loop that is a hockey tradition in these parts dating back to the fall of
1986. "We're a really good league, the brand of hockey is really good," said Corradini.
"But if we are losing players and complaining about losing players, then we have to do things to try and keep players in the fold. We have to learn how
to work with the NOJHL. We have to bridge the gap between how a game is officiated in midget hockey and how it's officiated in junior hockey."
"I never want to see fighting in minor hockey, but the game is called so differently," continued Corradini. "We need a rule emphasis that more closely
matches juniors and provincial championships."
The face of Kapuskasing Flyers' management team for some five to six years prior to stepping into the role of GNML commissioner last fall, Darren Potvin
is the first to admit that hindsight is clearly 20/20 in this particular instance.
"It might have been a little premature, on my part, the way that I left the Flyers organization to begin with," said Potvin. "The resignation of Bob
McLean was unexpected and things happened maybe a little too quick. I didn't really prepare for it."
"Looking back, I felt like maybe there wasn't a proper succession plan in place. And for myself, honestly, I missed the whole team aspect of it, which is
something I did not have with the commissioner's job."
Reunited with a long-time hockey working companion in the form of head coach Glen Denney, Potvin is especially anxious to see what the on-ice talent
in Kapuskasing can produce these next two years.
"We've got a young crop of players that I believe are going to be contenders this season in the GNML," said Potvin. "And out of that group, only two
players age out for next year. The reality is that many of us, myself included, are looking for that elusive Great North Midget League title."
In fact, since 2002, only two centers (Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie) have accounted for every single GNML championship. While the bulk of those banners
are proudly displayed at the home rinks of either the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves or Sault Ste Marie North Stars, the Nickel City Sons
also turned the trick on one occasion (though they are based out of Greater Sudbury).
Speaking of which, August 1st has now come and gone and still no head coach (or staff of any kind) in place for the defending league champs. There are,
apparently, at least a couple of interested parties, but there remain some details that would need to be ironed out before either one of the rumoured
candidates could be approved.
While there is seemingly no hard and fast deadline in place for the naming of the Nickel Capital Wolves coach, one would have to think that dragging this
on much beyond Friday, August 17th, would cause even more challenges for the incoming group than they already have to face by virtue of the uncertainty that
has existed up to this point.