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10-26-2013, 08:51 AM
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End of Sponsorship Part I Montreal Junior Hockey

Originally Posted by BadgerBruce View Post
One valuable area of inquiry this thread skates around is how minor hockey in Canada changed once the sponsorship system and the A/B/C card system ended.

My assumption is that at least some community-based minor hockey associations would have grown accustomed to the NHL sponsorship cash and, in some cases, administrative expertise. After all, while NHL teams wanted rights-control over players, they'd also have a vested interest in various developmental issues at the local level-- coaching staff, style of play, etc. Even the cost and availability of practice ice time would be impacted by sponsorship.

When the "system" ended, I can't help but think that many minor hockey associations were left scrambling in so many ways, not the least of which being philosophical. After all, with what amounted to a forced divorce from NHL affiliation, the Federal government's creation of Hockey Canada and its "international" mission in 1968 (Trudeau's election promise), and then the eventual merging of the CAHA, major junior hockey (now the CHL) and Hockey Canada, the entire youth hockey landscape changed profoundly in a short period of time.

The politics certainly increased. For instance, the very clear drop in registrations in 1992/93 was largely the result of a vicious fight between the OMHA and the new Ontario Hockey Federation, a war so nasty that the OMHA was actually declared an outlaw league across Canada, the US and internationally by the IIHF.

We so seldom view the "history" of hockey through the youth hockey lens. I'm just musing here, but I've a sense that my own understanding of higher levels of hockey would be better contextualized if I spent a bit more time examining the growth, development and change in youth/minor hockey.
Very valid questions and points, reflecting my interests in development from intro level hockey thru the NHL.

Before looking at the post sponsorship era, roughly 1970 to date, I'll outline the situation in the Montreal area from the late thirties to 1970.

In 1938 the Verdun Auditorium was built. Verdun, an independent city, 10 minutes down the Atwater hill from the old Montreal Forum became the center for the growth an development of the Canadiens junior system into the mid fifties. The Auditorium was also the main Canadiens practice facility when the Forum was not available. By the early 1950s the Canadiens had three Memorial Cup quality teams up and running - Junior Canadiens, Junior Royals and the Nationale, plus assorted Senior and Intermediate teams. The juniors were the key. Inevitably the coach was a former Canadiens player or a local groomed for an NHL career, Sam Pollock.Why three teams instead of one? Simple - control the league they played in and with three teams it was possible to import six players from outside the province - C.A.H.A. allowed two imports per junior team.

In Verdun, the Canadiens influence eventually drifted down to all levels as minor hockey developed below junior. The revenues generated from ice rentals to the Canadiens for practices, junior practices, games, etc facilitated the minor hockey program in Verdun.

By 1955 the Canadiens changed their junior philosophy. Sam Pollock with Scotty Bowman ran the Junior Canadiens out of Hull-Ottawa, stradling the Quebec / Ontario border, briefly playing in both Senior and Junior leagues simultaneously while staying Memorial Cup eligible.Finally joining the OHA as a strict junior team, 1962.

The Montreal area saw the birth of the MMJHL that acted as a feeder league for the Junior Canadiens although other NHL teams would place players for seasoning before graduating to the OHA team.You also had non sponsored players free to sign with any NHL team. The MMJHL continued until the formation of the QMJHL for the start of the 1969-70 season. Yes, each team was allowed two imports.

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