High school hockey in northwest Ohio will take on a new structure beginning with the 2002-2003 season when all 18 local teams combine into one three-tiered conference.
In a meeting held last night at St. John's Jesuit High School, representatives from all 18 schools voted to adopt a format which will expand the existing Northwest Hockey Conference and disband the Greater Toledo High School Hockey League.
In past years, the Northwest Hockey Conference has been considerably stronger, from a competitive standpoint, than the Greater Toledo League. With little regular-season crossover play between teams from the two leagues before state tournament time, the talent gap has been slow to shrink.
The newly aligned NHC will feature three six-team divisions arranged with suitable levels of competitiveness and periodic adjustment in alignment as the primary objectives.
In Division A, structured as the strongest grouping of teams based on program history, the six long-time members of the current NHC will remain together. Those schools include perennial state power Bowling Green, recent state power St. John's, and St. Francis de Sales, Northview, Southview and Findlay.
Division B, deemed the second level, will include former NHC member Ottawa Hills, which left that conference last year, plus Central Catholic, Clay, Maumee, Perrysburg and Whitmer.
For the coming 2001-2002 season, however, Perrysburg and Whitmer will join the six existing NHC teams to form an eight-team conference while the other 10 local teams will remain together for the final season of the Greater Toledo League.
Division C next year will have teams from Anthony Wayne, Bowsher, Lake, Springfield, Start and Waite.
“The whole purpose of this is to try to improve high school hockey in northwest Ohio as a sport, not just for the good of individual schools,” current NHC commissioner Cos Figliomeni said. “If we do this right, I believe all of these schools' programs will be elevated to higher level.”
In each of the three divisions, each team will play a 10-game, home-and-home division schedule with the first-place team in each declared the champion.
Each team will use its remaining eight dates as it wishes.
Per design, the new NHC alignment will remain in place for two seasons, after which the competitive structure will be reevaluated to consider possible changes. A four-member committee consisting of the NHC commissioner and one elected representative from each of the three divisions will hear requests for divisional changes, with stronger teams from a lower division perhaps trading places with weaker teams from a higher division.
A unanimous vote will be required to make any such changes each year in which the structure is reevaluated by the committee. Teams which are designated to be reassigned by the committee must move accordingly.
“If teams are too strong for a given division, we'll make changes if they're necessary in order to keep the divisions competitive,” Figliomeni said.