LEFT TO RIGHT: Paul Gagne, Marc-Alain Begin, Eddie Davey – 2010 NOJHL Champion Abitibi Eskimos
SUDBURY, Ont. – While the old adage goes: “You play for the logo on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back,” the storied history of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League has produced a plethora of talent that has seen many players achieve great success.
The crack research and statistics provided over the years by NOJHL historian, David Harrison, has provided the data to back up the numbers racked up by these league stars, past and present.
Here’s a look at some of those NOJHLers, past and present:
AMADIO: Former Soo Thunderbirds standout Matt Amadio piled up 133 points in just 95 career games with Sault Ste. Marie. That ties him for the most in league history by someone whose last name begins with ‘A’. He’s joined by former North Bay Skyhawks forward Jonathon Aubertin, who collected his 133 points in 112 NOJHL outings.
BÉGIN: Before becoming the current head coach of the Hearst Lumberjacks, Marc-Alain Bégin starred for three seasons, just over a decade ago, with the Abitibi Eskimos.
Playing at well over a two-point-per-game clip, he racked up 283 in just 128 contests on 92 goals and 191 assists. He also tacked on 53 playoff points and was a key component on the Eskimos run to the league championship in 2010.
His efforts in his final year of junior helped him collect first team all-star laurels at right wing.
CASTONGUAY: There was no more prolific goal-scorer in NOJHL history than Denis Castonguay.
From 1979 through 1984, he was a scoring marching for the Rayside-Balfour Canadians.
In his time, he collected a league-high 197 tallies, including 97 alone during the 1983-84 campaign, which is the record for most markers in a single season.
That same year Castonguay recorded 196 points, another NOJHL single-season record.
DAVEY: Despite playing only one year in the NOJHL, Eddie Davey made that most of it in backstopping the Abitibi Eskimos to a league title in 2009-10.
That season Davey made 45 appearances and had 38 wins, the most ever during any one season, and led all NOJHL netminders in goals-against average at 2.48.
He was also named the league’s most valuable player and was a first team all-star selection.
ESPOSITO: Hockey Hall of Fame honoured member Tony Esposito manned the nets for the Soo Greyhounds in the league’s first season of 1962-63.
Esposito sported the best goals-against average during that initial campaign at 2.60 and was named a NOJHL first team all-star.
The former Chicago Blackhawks great went on to win the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year in 1970 in a season in which he posted 15 shutouts.
FRAWLEY: Former Sturgeon Falls Lynx and North Bay Skyhawks centre David Frawley currently holds a pair of league records for postseason production.
In his career, he racked up 85 playoff points and 60 assists from 2001 to 2005, which are the most of any skater in league history, in each category.
GAGNE: No other individual has earned more NOJHL Coach of the Year honours than former Abitibi Eskimos bench boss Paul Gagne.
The former NHLer collected a league-best five top coach honours in his tenure, winning the award in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2010.
HERD: Playing most of his NOJHL career with the Powassan Voodoos, Cade Herd was over a point-per-game producer for the club.
In his time with Powassan, he contributed 176 points in 173 match-ups, including 119 assists.
INGRAHAM: Since first beginning play in 1962, the biggest point producer, whose last name begins with ‘I’ was Brandon Ingraham.
The former Manitoulin Islander/Abitibi Eskimos forward had 117 points over three seasons and 134 games from 2005-2008, scoring 44 times and helping set-up 73 others.
JAMEUS: In 1981-82, Dan Jameus was named the first team all-star goaltender in recognition of his stellar play with the Elliot Lake Vikings.
In his three years in the league, which also included stops with the Onaping Falls Huskies and Rayside-Balfour Canadians, he finished first in goals-against average once and was second overall the other two campaigns.
KLEINHANS: The diminutive John Kleinhans was a standout between the pipes for the Soo Thunderbirds.
In his final year of junior hockey, he backstopped Sault Ste. Marie both a league championship and a Dudley-Hewitt Cup crown in 2012.
He also had a stellar run at the then Royal Bank Cup national Jr. A event where he was named the top goaltender and MVP.
Earlier accolades that season saw him collect NOJHL first team all-star honours while leading the league in both goals-against average and save percentage.
LAPLANTE: During a 48-game 2004-05 season, Thomas Laplante of the Blind River Beavers led the NOJHL in scoring with 80 points, including a league-best 39 tallies.
Named a first team all-star at centre, he went on to rack up 187 career points in 124 games with 90 markers and 97 helpers.
MASTERNAK: The NOJHL record holder for most career shutouts with 17, Masternak also holds the league mark for no goals allowed in a game, during a season, with eight set last season.
He’s looking to duplicate posting the best goals-against average for a second straight year.
Last year Masternak finished with a 1.66 GAA to pace all stoppers.
He’s also No. 1 in lowest average so far this season at 1.48.
NEAULT: A staple in the Rayside-Balfour Canadians line-up from 2013 through 2018 Matt Neault was a testament to longevity.
During his run, he smashed the NOJHL record for regular season games played at 268.
The league’s Top Defensive Forward award winner in 2017-18, also suited up for Blind River and Sudbury Oil Barons.
Neault also boasts the league mark for total games played, which includes playoffs, at 305.
ONNIS: Part of three straight NOJHL championship sides in 1992, ’93 and ’94, Richard Onnis was a key contributor for the then Powassan Hawks.
In those trio of successful campaigns, Onnis racked up 194 points in 124 outings, including 126 assists to help the Hawks hoist the trophy in each year he played.
PICARD-FISET: A vital cog in the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners’ championship side in 2013-14 was defenceman Jeremy Picard Fiset.
That season Picard-Fiset paced all league blueliners in offensive production with 46 points in 51 outings while also leading all D-men in assists with 37.
He also earned back-to-back first team all-star nods on defence in 2013-14 and 2014-15 while picking up 124 points in 149 career games.
QUEVILLON: A hard-working forward for the first four seasons of the French River Rapids was Marc-Andre Quevillon.
Joining the Rapids for their initial campaign back in 2015, he went on to play 150 games in the league while scoring seven times and adding 14 assists.
RATTE: During the 1992-93 campaign, Jim Ratte established a league record for most shorthanded goals in a single-season with 13, as a member of the Timmins Golden Bears.
In all, Ratte provided 196 career points in just 114 games, including 119 tallies in total.
STOS: Playing only one year in the league back in 1991-92, Jon Stos was a set-up man extraordinaire.
There Stos set the NOJHL record for career assists in a single-season with 106.
He went on to pace all league skaters in offensive production with 173 points and was a first-team all-star honouree at right wing.
THOMPSON: An early contributor to the NOJHL was defenceman Terry Thompson.
He was a member of the Espanola Eagles team that won the first-ever league championship back in 1963.
Thompson went on to provide 101 points in 108 games for Espanola from the back end.
From there he went on to play NCAA hockey at Lake Superior State where he was a three-time All-American.
UNRUH: A member of the Cochrane Crunch club that won the 2018 NOJHL championship, Taylor Unruh went 5-1 in the playoffs that year with a solid 1.83 goals-against average and .919 save mark.
In all, he appeared in 54 league contests, winning 28 of them.
VERREAULT: The highest point producer in NOJHL history, Bryan Verreault accumulated 409 of them in five seasons with the Rayside-Balfour Canadians.
Producing over two points per game, Verrault notched 172 goals and 237 assists in the 198 contests he took to the ice for.
Ironically, in those five years, he never led the league in offensive numbers once, but always knew what to do with the puck around the net.
WHITE: Bill White saw plenty of rubber in the early days of the NOJHL as the goaltender played five seasons in the league with the Soo Greyhounds, beginning in 1963.
He twice led the NOJHL in goals-against average, was a first team all-star selection and was in net for a NOJHL championship.
White also had a brief stint with the Espanola Eagles in 1967-68.
X: While no player in league history had a last name that began with ‘X’, NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca is an alumnus of St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S.
Mazzuca is in his 10th year at the helm of the league helping the NOJHL move from seven teams upon his arrival to the 12 that competed during 2019-20.
YACHMENEV: A disciplined and point-producing player for Powassan, Tomas Yachmenev was a two-time recipient of the David Harrison Trophy as the NOJHL’s Most Gentlemanly Player.
He also provided 169 points in 162 games for the Voodoos, including 73 goals, while only picking up 10 minor penalties in his Jr. A career.
ZUKE: Former NHLer Mike Zuke skated in the NOJHL during the 1971-72 season for the eventual champion Soo Greyhounds.
That year he led the league in scoring with 96 points in just 52 games on 32 goals and 62 assists, which also paced all skaters.
He was also named the NOJHL’s Most Gentlemanly Player and was tabbed a first team all-star at centre.
After attending Michigan Tech of the NCAA, Zuke went on to an eight-year stint in the National Hockey League, mainly with the St. Louis Blues and Hartford Whalers.
With files from NOJHL Historian, David Harrison