Braves are founding members of NAHA Development League – Recorder & Times

Braves Owner Dustin Traylen speaks at a podium with Cornwall Colts Owner Ian MacInnis seated beside.

Story by Ron Zajac – Recorder & Times

BROCKVILLE – A new junior hockey league will start operations in September with eight franchises, including teams in Brockville, Cornwall, Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal.

At a media event here Thursday announcing the formation of the North American Hockey Association (NAHA), Brockville Braves and Tikis owner Dustin Traylen also announced the Tikis are for sale, with Brockville’s new NAHA entry taking over the Jr. B club’s Wednesday-night slot.

Traylen is part of the NAHA’s board of governors, along with Cornwall Colts owner Ian MacInnis, who will head the new league.

At Thursday’s media conference at the Brockville Memorial Centre, MacInnis said the NAHA will operate outside of Hockey Canada as an unsanctioned league, allowing club owners greater freedom in procuring players.

“It is long overdue,” said MacInnis, adding efforts to create the new league have been ongoing for a while.

“The time is now. We’re excited. It’s going to be a great product.”

“We’re really trying to offer something different,” said Traylen.

The NAHA’s eight founding franchises will include the Brockville Junior Braves, the Cornwall Junior Colts, and teams in Kingston, Smiths Falls, Ottawa East, Ottawa West, and Montreal’s South Shore and West Island, Traylen announced.

“We’re going to start here,” he added. “We’re going to start things right.”

The NAHA will be a developmental league feeding Jr. A teams such as the Braves and Colts, but will offer a calibre of hockey closer to Jr. A level, said Traylen.

“This is going to be much more like a Jr. A league,” offering players a “different feel” from the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League (EOJHL), he added.

MacInnis referred to the NAHA as “junior prep,” likely drawing from the higher end of the 16-to-21 junior hockey age range, and offering players a pathway both to major junior and college hockey.

A key issue behind the new league’s formation is player procurement. The NAHA plans to recruit players from a much wider area, something that can’t be done under Hockey Canada restrictions.

“We’re just being policied and regulated to death,” said Traylen.

The men acknowledged “differences of opinions” with existing junior hockey leagues, but said their aim was not to compete with the Central Canada Hockey League or the EOJHL. They plan to operate “in tandem” with the CCHL.

The NAHA will charge player fees similar to existing junior organizations, and offer “deliverables” such as more hours on ice, including more practice time, and exposure at prospects tournaments, they added.

The NAHA will start with a 42-game schedule, with its playoff structure to be announced later.

It is being financed by its governors, the owners of the different franchises.

Traylen and MacInnis said the new league is open to having teams in the United States in the future. He noted the opening season could have featured as many as 12 teams, but the founding governors were “selective” about how to begin.

The eight teams have been quietly putting their rosters together for a September start, they added.

Traylen, meanwhile, plans to sell the Tikis before September, with the team relocating, while the new NAHA Junior Braves will play in the Tikis’ Wednesday night time slot at the Memorial Centre. While the Tikis have been struggling with attendance, he feels the higher calibre of hockey the NAHA plans to offer will be a better draw.

“It’s just time to do what we know how to do,” added MacInnis.

“We’re hockey operators.”

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