Dudley-Hewitt Cup disappointment

The Dudley-Hewitt Cup is presented to the Central Canadian Jr. ‘A’ champion which is determined by an annual spring tournament pitting the top teams from the NOJHL, the SIJHL and OJHL plus a host team from one of those leagues. In 2019, the host team will be the Cochrane Crunch.

By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)

TIMMINS – While Timmins Rock officials are disappointed their bid to host the 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup came up short, they are not yet ready to commit to bidding to host the event in 2022 — the next window of opportunity for an NOJHL squad.

The Cochrane Crunch will host the Dudley-Hewitt Cup in 2019, while in 2020 the event will be hosted by a representative of the Ontario Junior Hockey League and in 2021 a Superior International Junior Hockey League squad will serve as host.

“Robert Mazzuca, the commissioner of the NOJHL, phoned me on Thursday, the day before the media release to let us know Timmins would not be hosting the Dudley-Hewitt Cup in 2019,” said Timmins Rock president Ted Gooch.

“Of course, it is disappointing. We know should we be given the opportunity to host the event, we have all the key pieces in place to ensure it would be a successful event, but we certainly congratulate Cochrane on being selected to host the event in 2019.

“I know they will do a great job.”

So, how about 2022?

“It is certainly something I have thought about a lot,” Gooch said.

“It is certainly something we will consider during the rest of this year and into next year. It gives us an opportunity to see what goes well and what doesn’t go well for Cochrane in 2019. We will keep a watchful eye and then decide when the next time it’s the NOJHL’s turn to host if we want to put in a bid. As of today, we have not made a decision on that.”

Two factors which may have hurt the Rock in their bid to host the 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup were the fact the Cochrane bid was a joint submission of the Crunch and the town, while the Timmins bid was identified as a Timmins Rock bid, and the fact there were some concerns about the local franchise being able to assemble a competitive host squad.

Gooch dismissed the first concern, while admitting the second might indeed have been a factor.

“I had a good conversation with the commissioner and we did have Tourism Timmins backing our bid,” he said.

“As you know, we have city-appointed director (Lacey Rigg) on our board. She did present the city’s portion of the bid, so I think we were strong on that area.

“The negative, as I told the league, is this is an election year and should Cochrane’s mayor (Peter Politis) and council be replaced, there is a risk of a new council coming in and not wanting to move forward with that budget spending. I guess time will tell and we will see how that plays out.”

From a competitive standpoint, the Rock (who will finish fifth in the East Division standings) have not been able to crack a Top 2 finish since moving back to Timmins, while the Crunch (36-17-2-1) are second in the East Division and tied for third in the NOJHL’s overall standings.

In 2016-17, the Rock (36-16-3-1) were third in the East Division, five points behind the Crunch (38-13-4-1), while in 2015-16 Timmins (29-24-0-1) was fourth, 25 points behind Cochrane (40-10-2-2).

“That seemed to be the biggest feedback from the decision,” Gooch said.

“Although Cochrane lost to Timmins in the playoffs last year, their record in the East Division was a deciding factor.”

Even though the Rock were unable to secure the 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup bid, the team still intends to put in a strong push to ice an extremely competitive squad in 2018-19.

“We still intend to approach next season the same way as if we had been awarded the right to host the 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup,” Gooch said.

“We will focus on bringing in some key players and I expect our lineup to be considerably different next year.”

Will that mean an increased budget for player acquisitions in 2018-19, or will other factors be considered in terms of attracting top-level talent.

“I think the the board felt the budget was there,” Gooch said.

“Of course, we had a couple of players who — due to situations out of our control — were not able to commit to Timmins after the fact. That kind of hurt us.

“And then, of course, some good pickups, like Josh Anderson, ended up moving up (to Rimouski Océanic, of the QMJHL). Good for him and good for our program, but it did nothing for our on-ice performance.

“It has been a little bit of everything, to be honest. I can’t really pinpoint our season on one thing in particular, but certainly more effort will go into recruiting some 16 and some 17 year olds from southern Ontario and selling our program to have them come up and help us build a winner.”

Like many NOJHL teams, the Rock experienced a great deal of roster turnover during the 2017-18 campaign.

“The last time I did a count, I think we were at 46, which is an unusually high number of players, based on previous years,” Gooch said.

“It was a big rebuild this year. We have a new coach (Corey Beer), a new GM (Kevin Peever) and a new game plan. We knew there would be, for lack of a better term, bumps in the road, but we feel certainly beyond Christmas our focus on recruitment has changed.

“Corey has taken a more active role in assisting Kevin in bringing in some young guys to fit his system. Together they have brought in players like Josh Anderson, Tyler Gilberds and Paul Spadafora, the types of players who can come in and have an impact in our system, as opposed to just spending money and buying 20 year olds and competing.

“That’s the new vision of the Timmins Rock and we are going to have to see how it plays out.”

In fact, Gooch hopes the Rock will be so competitive, they will be able to advance to the 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup not as host, but as NOJHL champs.

“I sent Lenny (Crunch GM and coach Ryan Leonard) an email congratulating him and I said the same thing to Robert Mazzuca when I ended the call with him, we are going to make a good run to be there, as well,” he said.