The Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) is the governing body for the majority of junior and senior level ice hockey teams in the Province of Ontario. The OHA is sanctioned by the Ontario Hockey Federation along with the Northern Ontario Hockey Association. Other Ontario sanctioning bodies along with the OHF include the Hockey Eastern Ontario and Hockey Northwestern Ontario. The OHA control 3 tiers of junior hockey; the "Tier 2 Junior "A", Junior "B" , Junior "C", and one senior hockey league, Allan Cup Hockey.
In 1980, the Ontario Major Junior Hockey League vacated what was known as Tier I Junior "A" hockey. The league is now known as the Ontario Hockey League. Although it is not a charter member of the OHA, the OHL is affiliated with the OHA and Ontario Hockey Federation.
The OHA was founded in 1890 to govern amateur ice hockey play in Ontario. This was the idea of Arthur Stanley, son of Lord Stanley, then Governor General of Canada. Arthur played for the Ottawa 'Rideau Rebels' and in the course of exhibition play against other teams in Ontario, convinced team officials to hold a meeting in November 1890 to discuss the idea. On November 27, 1890, at the Queen's Hotel in Toronto, delegates from hockey clubs around Ontario formed the Ontario Hockey Association.
The first executive was:
In the beginning, the OHA had one league of senior men's hockey teams. This group included teams from Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, and London. In the first years, the schedule consisted of this group playing a series of elimination playoffs leading to a single-game final playoff. For the first three years the Ottawa Hockey Club was the champions, winners of the Cosby Cup. In 1894, the Ottawa team and the Association came to a disagreement over the venue of the finals, and Ottawa left the league. This was a schism that would lead to the forming of the Ottawa District Hockey Association, governing most of eastern Ontario ice hockey play.
From 1893-1908, teams from the OHA could and did challenge for the Stanley Cup, including:
As senior-level play became professional, Stanley Cup challenges would become impossible for amateur teams to win. After the introduction of the Allan Cup in 1908, clubs from the OHA would compete for that instead. The Ontario Professional Hockey League started to play in 1908 for senior-level men's pro hockey teams in Ontario. Champions of the OPHL would continue to challenge for the Stanley Cup. The senior-level men's league of the OHA is today composed of the six teams of Allan Cup Hockey.
In 1892, the junior-level was introduced for play at a lower level. It was not age-limited to young men under the age of 20 until 1896, when the OHA introduced the 'intermediate'-level play bracket. In 1919, the Memorial Cup was introduced, first called the 'OHA Memorial Cup', and was first won by University of Toronto Schools (UTS). It was to be the national championship trophy for junior-level play.
The top-level of junior men's ice hockey would be under the governance of the OHA until 1980, when the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) was formed as a separate organization under Hockey Canada. The OHL took over as the body eligible for Memorial Cup tournament play, and later became part of the Canadian Hockey League junior league.
The OHA continues to be the governing body for several ice hockey leagues in senior and junior within its jurisdictional borders.
In 1897, intermediate level was introduced. This was to organize teams of a lower standard than the seniors.
The first champions were Berlin, defeating the Frontenacs 3-0.
The classification was abolished in 1983 by the OHA. The top league, Major Intermediate A Hockey League was divided between the OHA Senior A Hockey League and the various Senior B leagues. Nowadays, the OHA's Rule Handbook refers to what used to be the Intermediate A level as Senior AA, Intermediate B as Senior A, Intermediate C as Senior B, and the Intermediate D loop as Senior C. The champions for each classification is listed in the OHA Rule Handbook except for Senior C, although its trophy name is listed.
The trophy emblematic of Canadian Intermediate Hockey supremacy was the Hardy Cup. Only three teams from Ontario ever won the Hardy Cup (that ran from 1968-1990), two from the OHA: Georgetown Raiders in 1982 and Dundas Real McCoys in 1986. The third Ontario team was the Embrun Panthers of the Ottawa District Hockey Association.
Empowered by Hockey Canada, the Ontario Hockey Association governs all Ontario senior and junior hockey not administered by Hockey Northwestern Ontario, Hockey Eastern Ontario, or Northern Ontario Hockey Association. This does not include the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League or Western Ontario Athletic Association (at the Senior level), which are run outside of Hockey Canada's jurisdiction and are not affiliated.
Hockey Eastern Ontario represents the part of Ontario East of and including Lanark County, Renfrew County, and Leeds County, but not including the town of Gananoque. Hockey Northwestern Ontario has control of the section of Northwestern Ontario west of the 85th meridian.
In the 1974 OHA Junior B final for the Sutherland Cup, the Bramalea Blues of the Metro Junior B Hockey League and the Hamilton Red Wings of the Niagara District Junior B Hockey League were to face each other in a best-of-seven series. The Blues won a violent game one, but forfeited the series prior to game two, claiming that the Hamilton players were too violent and that the team had received a bomb threat if they were to return to Hamilton. The OHA's president, Frank Doherty, had offered to allow the Owen Sound Greys of the Mid-Ontario Junior B Hockey League to take Bramalea's place in the final (they had previously been eliminated by the Blues in the semi-final), but this idea was not popular with the rest of the OHA. Hamilton was awarded the series, but their championship was never engraved on the Sutherland Cup.
In 1986, the Ontario Hockey Association, concerned with growing violence in hockey, suspended the Streetsville Derbys and the Brantford Classics from playing in the 1986-87 season. The suspension of the Derbys had to do with a stick-swinging incident in the final game of the league quarter-final against the Nobleton Devils. A Nobleton player was struck in the back of the head with a two-hand slash, which also struck a linesman and cut his eyelid. Brantford's suspension was related to a violent playoff brawl against the St. Catharines Falcons.
The 1987 Grey-Bruce Junior League would be the third of nine consecutive league championships for the Hanover Barons. Stringing together their third regular season title, the Barons would face the Port Elgin Bears for the third consecutive year in the league final. The first time, the Barons defeated them in five games, the second in a four-game-sweep. The big and strong Barons played an aggressive style of play. After the second game, the General Manager of the Bears announced to the press that they would not resume the series, citing dangerous play. Multiple injuries had occurred in a game two brawl to multiple players, and the player's parents refused to let them finish the series. The Barons were awarded the league title, won the Provincial Junior C quarter-final against the Great Lakes League's Essex 73's, but dropped the semi-final to the Niagara & District League's Norwich Merchants.
In 1994, members of the Great Lakes Junior C Hockey League's Tilbury Hawks were charged with 135 various criminal violations by the Ontario Provincial Police stemming back to a rookie party in the Fall of 1993. Members of the Hawks organization, who won the league in 1992-93, had engaged in a rookie party at the team owner's house in which various hazing rituals were performed on rookies including forced drinking, group masturbation, shaving of pubic hair, and various sexual acts. Eventually, team trainer Paul Everaert and captain Ed Fiala plead guilty to their charges and were fined a total of $6,000. The team was forced out of Tilbury by the end of the 1993-94 season, relocating to Walpole Island and folding in 1999. The team was a part of an investigation and subject matter of an episode of The Fifth Estate.
Since the 2005-06 season, the OHA has sought a manner in which to rebrand and repopularize junior hockey throughout Ontario. Prior to the 2009-10 season, the OHA attempted to implement stage one of this endeavour. Their first attempt was to integrate the teams of the Southern Ontario Junior Hockey League in the Western Ontario Junior C Hockey League, Great Lakes Junior C Hockey League, and the Niagara & District Junior C Hockey League. The SOJHL, a group of teams in the London, Ontario-area are all former Junior D teams who have sought identification as Junior C teams as a whole in the past. The teams of the SOJHL, although classified still as Junior D in the OHA, dropped their Junior D title a long time ago. In 2009, a vote was conducted by the General Managers of the SOJHL, WOJCHL, GLJHL, and NDJCHL on how the OHA would proceed with the amalgamation. In the end, no action was taken. A group of SOJHL teams and NDJCHL teams actively blocked the measure due to a cluster of teams from both leagues that would have heavily overlapping player drawing zones - which would result in a depletion in their talent pool.
During the 2009-10 season, the OHA announced that the second stage of the Tomorrow's game initiative would take place at the start of the 2010-11 season - the re-amalgamation of Junior A and Junior B and the promotion of the best of these teams to the new "Premier League". In 1993, the Metro Junior B Hockey League and Central Junior B Hockey League, the OHA's two Toronto-area Junior B leagues, were officially recognized by the OHA as Junior A Leagues. The three remaining leagues, the Mid-Western Junior Hockey League, Western Ontario Hockey League, and Golden Horseshoe Junior Hockey League, who had been more dominant than their Toronto-area sister leagues in the Sutherland Cup department, were left to their own devices. In 2007, the three Southwestern Ontario leagues opted to merge to form a 27-team superleague, the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League in hopes of eventually being promoted to Junior A and to attempt to prevent player poaching from the 37-team Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League. To this date, the debate still rages as to which league is ultimately better, the GOJHL or the OPJHL. In 2009, the OHA asked members of both the OPJHL and the GOJHL to submit applications to the "Premier League" with deposits of $25,000. A number of GOJHL teams applied for entry, but the entire core of Toronto-area Junior A leagues refused to apply for the Premier League. The Junior A teams eventually filed an appeal to the Ontario Hockey Federation in an attempt to stop the restructuring. The OHF upheld the appeal, but not resoundingly. The OHF found that the OHA was within its rights to rebrand Junior A, B, C, and D to Premier, Division I, and Division II, as long as they were clear that Premier is still Junior A under Hockey Canada's guidelines and that Division I and II are Junior B and C. The OHF also said that the OHA could recategorize its teams by authority of OHA By-law B46. The part of the appeal that was upheld was that OHA By-law C7 adds to By-law B46 in that classification changes must be approved by the league before they can be implemented. The OHF Appeal Board also added that if the OHA wished to, the OHA could remove By-law C7 from its Regulations & Constitution and then probably proceed with restructuring plans.
No major announcements about the future of this plan have been made since the early months of 2010.
Please note: the Ontario Hockey League is not a member of the Ontario Hockey Association, but does carry a working relationship with it.