Buffalo Situation Similar to Aylmer Aces

Buffalo Situation Echoes That of Former Aylmer Aces

by C. Scott Holland

 

The current situation of the Buffalo Jr. Regals of the GOJHL taking a leave of absence for one year is similar to the fate of the former Western Jr. B Aylmer Aces who applied for and received a one year absence in 2002-2003. Despite the fact the Aces could have extended that leave by a year, the franchise never returned to the league.

The Regals have had problems acquiring players of Jr. B calibre and have been mired in the basement for nearly a decade.  Since the GHC joined Pointstreak, in the 2007-2008 season, the highest Buffalo/Wheatfield has been in the standings was 6th in the 2008-2009 season.

The Aylmer Aces went through almost identical problems. However the lack of players wasn’t entirely because there weren’t any in the area. Much of Aylmer’s decade in the league had been under the leadership of late GM Angie Nigro, a former Buffalo Sabres trainer who had also aided the Jr. B St. Marys Lincolns. It was via his work in the mid-1980s that Tillsonburg resurrected their Jr. B team and named them the Titans. In their seven year Western Jr. B stint they never made the playoffs and they spent all but one season in the cellar. Yet with Nigro as the GM, the franchise developed some good players. But prior to the 1991-1992 campaign, Nigro moved the team to Aylmer where they became the Aces.

Playing in the early 1950s Aylmer’s arena was a challenge for many teams as well as the fans who came to watch. The approximately 180 ft. long by 75 ft. wide barn had many oddities.  There were only four dressing rooms, all of which were out in the lobby. Many times, teams arriving to play would have to wait for an on-ice squad to finish, dress and totally leave before donning their own gear. With the refs taking up one dressing room that didn’t leave much available space.

There was a single row of large bench seats with high backs and most people just stood behind them. I did stats while precariously perched atop them. One didn’t have to worry about being over-crowded since it’s doubtful they ever drew more than 100 on most nights and perhaps jammed 300 in for playoff game.

The Aces did provide the league with some great players though. The late Joe Puhr, who died in practice, looked as though he would easily crack an NHL lineup. The prolific Jed Whitchurch, whose single season shorthanded goals mark of 28 is untouchable. In later years they would launch the junior careers of Darrell Parsons, Denver England, Shaun Arvai, Pat Lenehan, Jason Kilcan  and David Liffiton to name a few.

Its press box high above the ice had views of the ice between the large upper wooden beams and through the haze of smoke provided by a myriad of smokers at one end. To follow the play was often challenging.

In their final season, the team struggled and in one match between Leamington and Aylmer there was some extra on-ice protection: a pylon marking a hole in the ice which went right down to the cement floor. It was inside a faceoff circle and was avoided at all costs.

There was also the night the Aylmer team swore they saw a referee coaching the Strathroy Rockets.

Aylmer’s main reason for the leave of absence had been to build a new arena and reorganize the team. Had they taken a second year the new arena would have been ready for them. Yet they dropped down to play Jr. C.

Now Buffalo’s ownership is in the same boat and it is headed for the Falls unless something is done. They must find a new home, preferably on Canadian soil, where they can adequately field a proper team, or find a way to entice American players to play for them or else they can fold.

Since the Port Colborne team moved to Pelham, it makes sense to transfer the Buffalo team to Port Colborne, get community support and build a solid playoff bound franchise.

A year to go – Buffalo’s owners have to start looking ahead now.

 

RG Note: Below is a couple pictures of Aylmer’s old arena, East Elgin Memorial Community Centre, which I believe is now demolished.  I have many memories of going to Aylmer and the intense rivalry between the Aces and the Rockets from the mid-late 90’s. That rivalry has nothin’ on the rivalries of today in the GOJHL.  A couple memories include a full on bench brawl in the WMMA during the 1994-1995 season.  Another is when Rockets goalie, Chris Stapleton, son of Pat ‘Whitey’ Stapleton, nonchalantly skated off the ice while the play was going on in the other end, to deck the Aces GM, Angie Nigro, with his blocker, after Mr. Nigro yelled comments to Chris about his long blonde hair.

Aylmer Arena                              Aylmer Inside

 

You all know that I am a die-hard Rockets fan, but I am also a die-hard GOJHL fan, having been watching Jr. B hockey since I was 10 years old. I will only watch the GOJHL and during the hockey season, you never know what arena RG is gonna show up at.

I’m bringing you the games, news, and updates of the GOJHL.

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If you hear of anything about any of the teams in the GOJHL, or have questions about anything, feel free to post it. If I don’t know the answer, I know how to find it.

1 Comment

  1. Icedogsfan

    September 3, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Great article, but pretty hard to compare those two franchises since their philosophy for existence is completely different. Buffalo has been bad for many years, but financially didn’t really care since they were a “pay to play” team and the ownership was obviously making money or else they wouldn’t have taken their lumps for so long. What happen this past summer is the emergence of two more “pay to play” teams that came into their area, one in Lockport, NY and one in Port Colborne, and thus, they lost many of their potential players. Their players were tired of getting their asses kicked every night in the GOJHL and I’m sure they wanted to try something different. Moving another Jr. B team into Port Colborne wouldn’t be practical at this time. The previous Jr. B owner has left such a bad taste in the mouths of the people of Port Colborne, that it will be a long time before they will warm up to another Jr. B team. If the OHA doesn’t watch it, Port Colborne will get a second GMHL team, since they have a great facility and probably the ice time to have a second team. What Port Colborne really needs is a Jr. C team. A team that can have 18 local guys (Port Colborne, Wainfleet and Welland), that can be competitive and that the community will support.

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