By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock will open the 2016-17 NOJHL regular season against the same team they faced in the conclusion of the 2015-16 campaign — the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.
Following a two-game, home-and-home exhibition series against Kirkland Lake, the Rock will host the Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena on Saturday, Sept. 10.
It will be the second game of the 2016-17 campaign for the Gold Miners who will open the regular season at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex the previous night against the visiting French River Rapids.
The Saturday night contest is one one nine on the regular season home schedule for the Rock who will also play four Thursday night, four Sunday afternoon, three Friday night, three Wednesday night, two Tuesday night and one Monday night contest during the 2016-17 campaign.
During their previous incarnation, as the Abitibi Eskimos, the franchise played the bulk of its home games at the Jus Jordan Arena on Saturday nights, but with the move to the McIntyre Arena in Timmins for the 2015-16 campaign it could only secure home games on nine of the 26 Saturday nights during the regular season.
The team also played at home on seven Wednesday nights, five Friday nights, five Sunday afternoons, one Thursday night, but did not play at home on any Monday or Tuesday nights.
“It’s tough when you are dealing with 11 partners who also need to play and need to travel,” said Rock president Scott Marshall.
“Everyone wants to play on Saturday nights, but if you look at a calendar and figure out how many Saturdays there are from the start of the schedule to the end of the schedule, there are not enough to go around.
“We try to book as many Saturday nights as possible because, for whatever reason, that seems to be the night people want to come out to see the Rock play based on our attendance from last year.”
The release of the NOJHL’s schedule was slightly delayed based upon some circumstances that were beyond its control.
“We had some issues this year because the OHL (Ontario Hockey League) schedule got delayed,” Marshall said.
“The OHL schedule has a direct impact on some of our partners, especially the Soo Thunderbirds because they play out of the same arena as the Greyhounds.
“That delay result in the Great North Midget League doing their schedule before ours and we lost some Saturday nights there. That, combined with other events at the McIntyre Arena, really restricted the number of Saturday nights we could book.
“Our first choice, in order, was Saturday nights, followed by Friday nights, followed by Sunday afternoons and then weeknight games.”
There will be no change in the lineup of teams taking to the ice in the NOJHL this season, with two divisions of six teams, but there have been some adjustments to the schedule.
“This year, the league’s intent was to make the schedule more balanced,” Marshall said.
“It is still not a true balanced schedule and the issue is geographical, but the new format will see us only play one game at home and one game on the road against West Division opponents (Blind River Beavers, Elliot Lake Wildcats, Espanola Express, Rayside Balfour Canadians, Soo Eagles and the Soo Thunderbirds).
“Last year, Rayside-Balfour came to see us twice and I think one or both of the Soo teams came to play us twice, but we didn’t play very many games against French River and Powassan, two teams in our own division. It was a very unbalanced schedule last year.
“Last year, they adjusted the schedule to try and keep busing costs as low as possible, but I think our league partners at the end of the day took a look at the standings in the East and in the West and said it wasn’t a true reflection of the calibre of the teams because of how unbalanced it was.
“This year, the East will play the West home-and-home. That’s it. In our own division (Cochrane Crunch, French River Rapids, Iroquois Falls Eskis, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and Powassan Voodoos) we will play four times at home and four times on the road), with every team playing an additional home-and-home against their closest geographic rival.”
For the Rock, that will mean an extra two games against the Gold Miners, while the Crunch and the Eskis will face off in an additional two times.
Rock fans will get their first look at the 2016-17 version of the Crunch when Cochrane visits the McIntyre Arena on Wednesday, Sept. 28.
The Rock are not scheduled to pay their first visit to the Tim Horton Event Centre in Cochrane until Friday, Dec. 2.
The Iroquois Falls Eskis will make their first visit to the McIntyre Arena one week later, on Wednesday, Oct. 5.
In turn, the Rock will make their first visit to the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls to take on the Eskis on Friday, Nov. 4.
The Eskis and Crunch will play a home-and-home series to open their NOJHL campaigns, with the two side facing off at the Tim Horton Event Centre in Cochrane on Friday, Sept. 9, and then back at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls on Saturday, Sept. 10.
One of the highlights for Timmins fans will be Saturday, Dec. 10, with a tripleheader scheduled for the McIntyre Arena.
What’s being billed as Hockey Day in Timmins will open with a Northern Ontario Bantam ‘AAA’ Hockey League game between the Timmins Eagles and the Sault Thunder at 1:30 p.m.
The Timmins Majors will then host the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves in a GNML contest scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.
The day will then wrap up with the Rock taking on the visiting Rayside-Balfour Canadians, at 7:30 p.m.
“We haven’t had a chance yet to meet as a group and discuss what we may or may not do, but it will give local fans an opportunity to see all three teams play on the same day, which should be kind of cool,” Marshall said.
ROCK NOTES — The Rock will play a pair of exhibition games against the Gold Miners. The two sides will face off at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex in Kirkland Lake on Friday, Aug. 26, and then back at the McIntyre Arena on Satuday, Aug. 27 … Now that the NOJHL schedule has been released the Rock will begin printing season-ticket packages for the upcoming campaign. Marshall hopes they will be available for pick up by “mid-August at the very latest.” Fans who have not yet done so, can purchase their season tickets of Legacy Memberships by visiting http://timminsrock.com/tickets … The Rock are looking for billet families for the 2016-17 season. Anyone interested in getting more information should email firstname.lastname@example.org … The Rock will hold their inaugural golf tournament at Spruce Needles Golf Club on Thursday, Aug. 18. Visit http://timminsrock.com/golf-tournament or email email@example.com for more information.
Following are the 27 home games the Rock will play as part of their 2016-17 regular season schedule:
• Saturday, Sept. 10, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, 7:30 p.m.;
• Friday, Sept. 16, French River Rapids, 7:30 p.m.;
• Thursday, Sept. 22, Powassan Voodoos, 7:30 p.m.;
• Wednesday, Sept. 28, Cochrane Crunch, 7:30 pm.;
• Sunday, Oct. 9, Soo Thunderbirds, 2 p.m.;
• Saturday, Oct. 15, Soo Eagles, 7:30 p.m.;
• Saturday, Oct. 22, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, 7:30 p.m.;
• Wednesday, Oct. 26, Iroquois Falls Eskis, 7:30 p.m.;
• Saturday, Nov. 5, Espanola Express, 7:30 p.m.;
• Tuesday, Nov. 8, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, 7:30 pm.;
• Saturday, Nov. 19, French River Rapids, 7:30 p.m.;
• Wednesday, Nov. 23, Cochrane Crunch, 7:30 p.m.;
• Saturday, Nov. 26, Powassan Voodoos, 7:30 p.m.;
• Sunday, Dec. 4, Powassan Voodoos, 2 p.m.;
• Thursday, Dec. 8, French River Rapids, 7:30 p.m.;
• Saturday, Dec. 10, Rayside-Balfour Canadians, 7:30 p.m.;
• Saturday, Dec. 17, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, 7:30 p.m.;
• Monday, Jan. 9, French River Rapids, 7:30 p.m.;
• Thursday, Jan. 12, Cochrane Crunch, 7:30 p.m.;
• Saturday, Jan. 15, Iroquois Falls Eskis, 7:30 p.m.;
• Saturday, Jan. 27, Blind River Beavers, 7:30 p.m.;
• Thursday, Feb. 2, Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, 7:30 p.m.;
• Tuesday, Feb. 7, Cochrane Crunch, 7:30 p.m.;
• Saturday, Feb. 18, Elliot Lake Wildcats, 7:30 p.m.;
• Wednesday, Feb. 22, Iroquois Falls Eskis, 7:30 p.m.;
• Friday, March 3, Iroquois Falls Eskis, 7:30 p.m.;
• Sunday, March 5, Powassan Voodoos, 2 p.m.