The Ontario Hockey League is a vast league that covers some of the most important hockey markets in Ontario and the States surrounding it. The magic number for the league has been founded in 20 and it doesn’t look like the league will expand anytime soon. But if there were candidates for the next market for the OHL Expansion, here would be the five best places to place a new team.
Located south of Ottawa and in the corner of the province, Cornwall has been a popular city to talk about when it comes to the OHL expansion. Right now, the Junior A Cornwall Colts of the Central Canada Hockey League is the highest-level team in the city. The city also has a 5,000-seat arena that sits downtown right next to the St. Lawrence River.
While it may be a smaller population centre than other OHL cities, like Owen Sound it could be one of the smaller locations that become loyal and strong for a team. It would also be the first time since 1992 when the OHL had the Cornwall Royals who are now the Sarnia Sting.
It’s sometimes easy to forget how big of a hockey city Detroit is especially for Canadians. While they have the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit is home to a huge minor hockey system that houses many teams and many future hockey stars.
The OHL did have a team in the Detroit region for many years with the Plymouth Whalers but moved in 2015 to become the Flint Spitfire. Despite the change, if a new team decided to take on the Detroit market, they would find many places and fans in the area that would come support them, making it a solid consideration for an OHL expansion. They would just have to be better than what the Whalers were in their last couple of years.
North of Toronto, the York region is becoming a bigger market. The big issue with it is the location being so close to the Toronto Maple Leafs which is thought of as a deterrent for teams that are close. The two teams that are in the Greater Toronto Area are the Oshawa Generals and Mississauga Steelheads. The Generals have made their names in Oshawa and Durham region and the Steelheads’ problems have to do with a lot more than just being close to the Leafs.
If there was a team in the York Region it would be the first time since 1994 when the Newmarket Royals stayed in the region for two years before going to Sarnia to become the Sting. This is a market that is also growing in other sports with the York United FC making their home in the region in Canada’s top soccer league. While there are a lot of risks, it could be a region that can produce a lot of rewards.
Home of the Great One. It’s a community that has used its legacy to build a hockey community that is worthy of an OHL expansion team. Right now, the team has an Ontario Junior Hockey League team called the Brantford 99ers.
With it located right next to Hamilton, it can become a proximity rival with the Bulldogs and other teams that are more west. The big issue is where could they put the team. The obvious choice would be the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre but it would risk becoming one of the smallest arenas in the entire league. There have been some rumours going around that on that someone is looking to move a team there, but that has died down in the summer, and no word if that will ever happen.
There have been talks about moving the team out of Hamilton to Brantford and now there is a possibility with the arena issues. But that is still unlikely as Hamilton has become a strong market for the OHL.
West of the highest-attended team in the league, the London Knights, Chatham-Kent is a market that is continuing to grow into its own identity. It’s also a market that doesn’t have a defined junior team in the area.
It would be an area that can fit into the Western Conference quite easily with it being close to Windsor, Sarnia, and London. It’s a place that could be developed and with the Intercounty Baseball League announcing they will be playing in there, the sports market is only growing.
The OHL expansion certainly has many options to pick from for team placement, but right now they have 17 markets in Ontario, and three markets in the U.S. that are happy to call these teams home. Maybe in the future, there could be a few more locations for the OHL to take advantage of.
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