Ontario Junior A Hockey League

JUNIOR 'A' HISTORY

The Ontario Hockey Association Tier II Junior "A" League was born out of the creation of the Ontario Hockey League. There have always been multiple tiers of junior hockey, but the top tier, then known as Ontario Hockey Association Junior "A", elected to split from the OHA and create its own level of hockey. The early 1970s sparked a vast reorganization of Canadian hockey right across the country. The OHL was born out of this, as well was the Western Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in other parts of Canada. The new tier was known as Major Junior "A" hockey. The first Ontario Tier II League came in 1968 with creation of the renegade Western Ontario Junior A Hockey League, which became the Southern Ontario Junior A Hockey League in 1970. 

The aftermath of the annexation of the top tier left a vacuum for a new top tier of OHA hockey. What filled the gap in 1972 was the 12-team Ontario Hockey Association Jr. "A" Hockey League, comprised of 5 teams leaving the Metro Junior "B" (the Richmond Hill Rams, North York Rangers, Downsview Beavers, Aurora Tigers and the Dixie Beehives), 6 expansion teams (Seneca Flyers, Ajax Steelers, Wexford Warriors, Vaughan Nationals, Weston Dodgers, Kingston Frontenac's) and the North Bay Trappers of the recently folded Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

The Ontario Provincial league's only competition for talent in Southern Ontario was the Southern Ontario Junior A Hockey League. The Southern Ontario league jumped to Junior "A" in 1968 as the Western Ontario Junior A Hockey League and changed its name two years later. From the 1972-73 seasons until the 1976-77 seasons, these two leagues put their champions up against each other to earn the right to compete for the Dudley Hewitt Cup as only one Ontario Hockey Association team could challenge for it. In 1973, the SOJAHL's Chatham Maroons defeated the OPJHL's Wexford Raiders 4-games-to-3. In 1974, the Wexford Raiders got their turn, defeating the Windsor Spitfires 4-games-to-3 to even the series. A year later, the SOJAHL's Guelph CMC's defeated the Toronto Nationals 4-games-to-2 and in 1976 became the Guelph Platers and defeated the North Bay Trappers 4-games-to-1 to win their second straight OHA Championship. The final chapter of this saga was slightly redemptive for the OPJHL as their North York Rangers went the distance and defeated Guelph 4-games-to-3. Down to four teams, the SOJAHL folded. The Guelph Platers and Hamilton Mountain A's jumped to the OPJHL, while the Owen Sound Greys took a season off then joined the Georgian Bay Intermediate A Hockey League and the Collingwood Blues changed their name and dropped to Junior C. After a five year feud, the SOJAHL won the battle but lost the war as their champions won three of five OHA Championships but ultimately folded. 

Over the next few years, the Guelph Platers, Belleville Bulls and Kingston Frontenac's would all get their start in this league before jumping to the Ontario Hockey League. 

By 1986, the league was suffering from a variety of difficulties. With most of their teams folding or dropping to Junior "B", the league was left with 4 teams; the OHA Jr. "A" League was forced to close its doors at the end of the 1986-87 seasons. The four remaining teams at the end of the OHA Jr. "A" League era were the Final Champion Owen Sound Greys, the Aurora Eagles, the Markham Waxers, and the Richmond Hill Dynes. The Central League agreed to take Markham, Aurora and Richmond Hill, while the Owen Sound Greys went to the Midwestern Junior B Hockey League.

In 1991, the renegade Metro Junior A Hockey League promoted itself to fill the Junior "A" hockey void across the southern part of the province. In 1993, for the Ontario Hockey Association to compete, the Central Junior B Hockey League was promoted to Junior "A" and renamed the "Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League". The year of 1993 also marked the year that the Canadian Junior A Hockey League was created. Since 1994, OPJHL teams have won 8 of 13 Dudley Hewitt Cups as Central Canadian Champions to earn a birth in the Royal Bank Cup. 

The summer of 1998 marked the death of the Metro Junior A Hockey League, as it merged into the flourishing OPJHL, taking many of the league's teams, including: the Aurora Tigers, Bramalea Blues, Buffalo Lightning, Durham Huskies, Huntsville Wildcats, Markham Waxers, Muskoka Bears, North York Rangers, Pickering Panthers, Port Hope Buzzards, Shelburne Wolves, Syracuse Jr. Crunch, Thornhill Rattlers, Wellington Dukes, and Wexford Raiders.