Longstanding junior hockey franchises and Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) rivals, the Cobourg Cougars and the Streetsville Derbys, proudly announced today they have agreed to combine operations as part of the OJHL’s ongoing aggressive contraction plans.
This latest combination of clubs was formally approved by the OJHL yesterday and comes hot on the heels of the combination completed before the start of last season by the Cougars with the Bowmanville Eagles.
The combined club will continue to play out of Cobourg and to be known as “the Cougars”. It will be based in and play out of Cobourg’s new 2,000+ seat state-of-the-art rink, which is slated to be completed on or before April 15, 2011. Both organizations have been leaders, both on and off the ice, within the “New OJHL”, which continues to take significant steps aimed at becoming the top Jr “A” hockey league in Canada.
“The combined team and organization will have some of the best capabilities in junior “A” hockey, and will be based in the great Town of Cobourg. The club will remain the only Jr “A” club in Northumberland County”, said Marc Mercier, the Cougars' Governor. “We have a clear opportunity to turn these strengths into meaningful results for all constituent aspects of the organization – our players and staff, our fans, our sponsors, our volunteers and the great hockey loving communities we serve.”
Tom Baker, longstanding owner of the Streetsville franchise said “while we are obviously disappointed to be leaving the storied Derbys name behind, we are extremely excited by the prospects of being a part of a new partnership centered around the Cobourg Cougars and proud to be joining one of the best run organizations in the OJHL. We share the same core values as the Cougars’ ownership group – including most notably the desire to develop amateur junior hockey players so they can move to higher levels within hockey – and are proud to be part of a community that values the organization and an over-arching sense of community.”
“The OJHL Board of Governors recognized that in order to drive improvement of the league the first area of focus that needed to be addressed was the number of teams within the league,” stated OJHL Commissioner Marty Savoy. “The OJHL reiterated in January of this year it would continue to actively pursue contraction within the league as a means to improving the overall quality of the league. The OJHL contraction strategy has been based on a voluntary commitment from our Owners and we are appreciative of the undeniable sacrifices made by Cobourg and Streetsville in helping us to achieve our goals”.
While the Cobourg-Streetsville merger is significant, it is part of a larger league-driven policy aimed at contraction. It is widely-expected the OJHL will be announcing in the very near future a number of other contraction steps that will take effect prior to the coming season and will likely leave the OJHL with 26-28 franchises. The permanent reduction of an additional 4-5 teams means that the league will have contracted by nearly 30% over the past few years, which is remarkably down from the 37 clubs that existed a mere 3 years ago.
Community and Organizational Strength
The ownership groups in Cobourg and Streetsville are working diligently to ensure the combined team is fully operational immediately now that the merger has been announced. To further advance these objectives, a joint player recruitment approach has been implemented. As a result of these actions, the merged club will begin to capitalize on the benefits offered by the combination effective immediately.
While the combined club has strengthened capabilities in its recruitment, retention and development of skilled players interested in proceeding to higher levels of hockey, it remains very interested in its recruitment efforts for next season. The club is busy getting ready for the completion of the new “Cougars Den” slated for April and its Spring Camp slated for May 7-8, 2011.
The combination of these two franchises has greatly enhanced the club’s ability to recruit, retain and develop players. Between the merging clubs, several players from the two rosters over the past few years have either progressed to the Ontario Hockey League or have decided to play university hockey in Canada and the United States. In addition, a number of alumni from the two organizations are currently assisting their National Hockey League clubs as they try to compete for the Stanley Cup.
Announcements concerning the leadership team, which will represent a combination of the two clubs, will be made in the days ahead. In the interim, an executive transition committee has been formed, which will include Marc Mercier, Ralph Moulton, Scott Mackie, Randy Jakobi and Tom Baker. The merged club will benefit greatly from the expertise of the executive transition committee, last season’s experiences with the merger with Bowmanville and the diversity of experience and strong connections to the community it represents.
For more than 45 years, the Cobourg Cougars have been a strong, community-based and well-supported junior hockey organization. During this past season, the Cougars enjoyed once again being among the top quartile of clubs in attendance. To learn more about the merger and our other accomplishments, please visit www.cobourgcougars.com in the days and weeks ahead. Follow the Cougars on www.Twitter.com/cobourgcougars.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)