If you’re not a diehard local sports fan you may not have heard their name. They don’t get a lot of play in the media, you can’t watch their games on television and unless you know someone, you likely haven’t been to one of their games. But you should.
The Hamilton Hurricanes play in the Ontario Football Conference of the Canadian Junior Football League, or CJFL.
Since the teams inception in the league back in 2008 the team has made the playoffs every year, advancing to the OFC championship the last four years. The Hurricans won back-to-back OFC championships in 2010 and 2011. Hurricanes’ president Mike Samuel expects another strong performance from the team this year.
“Nothing short of an OFC championship is on our radar,” Samuel said on Thursday. “We expect to be one of the top teams at the end of the season.”
While an Ontario Football Conference championship may be on the team’s radar this year, playing for the Canadian Bowl national championship isn’t possible this season.
The OFC changed their bylaws within the Canadian Junior Football League this year allowing teams to field 23 and 24 year old players. Typically in previous years once a player reached that age they were ineligible to play CJFL football. Teams in the Ontario Football Conference are now allowed to dress ten 23 year olds as well as ten 24 year olds.
The change was actually initiated out west in the BC Conference, who wanted to get older aged players to compete with CIS programs. Additionally the pro teams find the older players more mature when they come to camp. A problem arose as this change would affect funding for teams in the west. Teams in the western and prarie provinces are heavily funded by their gaming license, where teams receive funding from the 50/50 at CFL games. By raising the age limit, the teams would not qualify for the gaming license and lose those funds.
The BCFC and PFC (Prarie Football Conference) decided against the change, however with the OFC going forward with the age limit increase the Ontario Football Conference can’t complete in the Canadian Bowl.
The CJFL is now in talks with the Maritime Football League, who just finished their 2014 season a few weeks ago, to potentially set up an Eastern Canada Final with the OFC. And while some don’t consider the Canadian Bowl a true national championship without Ontario in the mix, the game will keep it’s current moniker. The CJFL will likely revisit the age limit at next year’s annual general meeting.
The Hurricanes kick off their season on Saturday afternoon when they visit the Burlington Braves just across the bay at Nelson Stadium. The game gets started at 5pm. Hamilton will host Windsor at their home opener from Cardinal Newman High School the following Saturday, August 23rd at 4pm.