Five Niagara based teams compete in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, including the Fort Erie Meteors (pictured). Photo credit: Facebook/Fort Erie Meteors
There’s one less Niagara based team in 2023, but the puck drops on the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) regular season this week.
After the Niagara Falls Canucks made the jump to the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL), the St. Catharines Falcons, Fort Erie Meteors, Welland Jr. Canadiens, Pelham Panthers and the Port Colborne Sailors, who permanently made the move from Thorold, make up the five Niagara based teams in the seven-team Golden Horseshoe Conference of the GOJHL.
The Hamilton Kilty B’s and Caledonia Corvairs are the other two teams.
Sources tell The Niagara Independent several ownership groups have stepped forward to move a team back into Thorold as early as next season.
Two former NHL players have moved behind the bench in the Golden Horseshoe. Zac Rinaldo in Pelham, and Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Zenon Konopka in Caledonia.
The St. Catharines Falcons are the defending regular season champions, while the Hamilton Kilty B’s were playoff champions and represented the conference in the Sutherland Cup finals.
“Thanks for reminding me of that, hopefully we can change that to league champions this season,” said Falcons head coach and newly named general manager Tyler Bielby.
Bielby moved into the GM role after veteran Frank Girhiny stepped away after an impressive run in the Garden City.
Nik Passero continues to lead the Fort Erie Meteors in the dual role of head coach and general manager, and admits his team will be younger in 2023.
“We’re in a different position than last season where we had a lot of players back,” Passero said. “It will be interesting to see how the season plays out.”
The Welland Jr. Canadians will feature a new head coach this season after team owner and general manager Lou Savona named Don Herrington new bench boss in the Rose City.
Head coach and general manager of the Port Colborne Sailors Scott Barnes feels his veteran-laden club could impress this campaign.
“We have 12 players back, and I really think we’ll be there come playoff time,” explained Barnes.
As mentioned, owner Tim Toffolo also made a change behind the bench in Pelham naming Zac Rinaldo head coach.
St. Catharines will play their usual Friday night home games at the Seymour-Hannah Centre.
Fort Erie features Saturday and Tuesday evening home contests at the Leisureplex.
Port Colborne welcomes fans on Friday and Saturday nights to the Vale Centre.
Welland will stick with its Sunday night home games at the Main Arena.
And Pelham plays Friday night and Sunday afternoon games at the Accipiter Arena inside the Meridian Community Centre.
The 50-game schedule for each team concludes on March 3.
For more information on the five Niagara based Junior B teams and the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League visit gojhl.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.