Team had been playing Jr. B for 52 years. Photo credit: Niagara Falls Canucks
The Niagara Falls ‘Jr. B’ Canucks are no more.
After playing for 52 years under the Jr. B hockey umbrella, including most recently with the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL), the Canucks are moving up and joining the Jr. A Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL).
In 2010, the OJHL Board of Governors passed a motion to undertake an extensive contraction program to decrease the number of teams within the league from 37 to 24. Through various processes, the league actually contracted to 22 teams, which allowed for the future addition of two additional teams to bring the total number of teams to 24.
After a two-year expansion process, the league now has those 24 franchises with the addition of two new franchises, the Niagara Falls Canucks, and the 2023 Sutherland Cup Champion Leamington Flyers.
“The Niagara Region is a tremendous hockey community and the OJHL is extremely excited to be bringing Junior A hockey to the city of Niagara Falls,” said OJHL Commissioner Marty Savoy. “The ownership of Brandon Boone and Frank Pietrangelo expressed not only their desire to join the OJHL but more importantly their commitment to bring Junior A hockey to Niagara Falls. That commitment to the city and Junior hockey will be a tremendous asset to all players, fans, sponsors who are part of the Junior Canucks Organization.”
The Canucks will play in the league’s 12-team West Conference, which includes the Brantford 99ers, Buffalo Jr. Sabres, Burlington Cougars, Caledon Admirals, Collingwood Blues, Georgetown Raiders, Leamington Flyers, Milton Menace, Mississauga Chargers, Oakville Blades, and Toronto Patriots.
Niagara Falls was selected through an extensive process led by the OJHL Expansion Committee.
Canucks co-owners Frank Pietrangelo and Brandon Boone are excited to be welcomed into the OJHL family.
“The Niagara Falls Canucks are proud to be joining the OJHL,” said former NHLer and Stanley Cup Champion Pietrangelo.
“This is great news for the Canucks organization, the City of Niagara Falls, and also for junior hockey in the Niagara Region, to be able to showcase our players’ talents at the highest level.”
“We could not be happier for our fans, sponsors and volunteers to be bringing Junior A hockey back to Niagara Falls for the first time since the Niagara Falls Flyers joined the OHL in 1980,” Boone said.
“More importantly, we could not be happier for the players of the Niagara Region, who will no longer have to leave home as teenagers to play at the highest amateur level.”
“The OJHL is the largest Junior A hockey league in Canada, and truly the ‘League of Choice,’ generating dozens of NCAA, U SPORTS, CHL and professional commitments on an annual basis – including 30 alumni on NHL rosters at the beginning of the 2022-2023 season, leading the nine league CJHL in that category. We are humbled to be joining the OJHL and giving those associated with the Niagara Falls Jr. Canucks this golden opportunity. We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship.”
The Canucks’ home base has plenty to offer.
“The Niagara Region, and the City of Niagara Falls in particular, is a world class destination,” Boone told the OJHL, “with dozens of world-class attractions, 12 golf courses and 66 wineries, not to mention the Falls themselves, that over 12 million tourists visit each year.
The Gale Centre is a world-class facility, boasting four NHL-sized rinks, including the Canucks’ home rink, which has a seating and standing capacity of almost 2,300. We are proud to add the OJHL to the long list of esteemed users of the Gale Centre in its relatively short history, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Team Canada World Junior Championship team, Canadian Women’s Hockey League, Team Canada Women’s World Championship team and, coming this fall, the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling.”
Boone went on to praise the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“We wish to thank the GOJHL for their partnership over the years, he said. “The Niagara Falls Jr. Canucks were a Junior B team for 52 years, from 1971 until our recent reclassification to Junior A, winning Sutherland Cup championships in 1996 and 1998. Our alumni include two Stanley Cup winners and several others who have made NHL appearances or had NHL careers. We will strive to remain one of the most respected, stable and storied franchises in the OHA, within the OJHL. We wish the GOJHL nothing but the best.”
For more information on the Niagara Falls Canucks visit: https://www.niagarafallscanucks.com
And for more on the Ontario Junior Hockey League, visit: https://www.ojhl.ca
Rod Mawhood is a lifelong Niagara native who has had the pleasure of working in all three mediums – Radio, Print and TV – for over 20 years. His first announcing gig was with the then St. Catharines Stompers. Since then he’s worked in radio and TV in Toronto, and currently is the announcer for the Niagara IceDogs and Niagara River Lions.
Rod also covers the Buffalo Bills for FOX Sports and the Buffalo Sabres for NBC Sports.