The origins of Jr. 'B' hockey in Nova Scotia can be traced back to the early 1960s.
There were three Jr. 'B' leagues operating in the Province using several different names. They were the Cape Breton Jr. 'B' Hockey League (also known as the Eastern Jr. 'B' Hockey League during the years when the Antigonish Bulldogs had a team entered), the Northumberland Jr. 'B' Hockey League (also known as the APC - Antigonish - Pictou - Colchester Jr. 'B' Hockey League during the years when the Truro Bearcats had a team entered), and the Halifax and Dartmouth area league.
The winners of these leagues would playoff to determine the Nova Scotia Jr. 'B' Champion. These early championships were dominated by the Cape Breton area teams.
In 1967, a new league called the Metro-Valley Jr. 'B' Hockey League was formed. The original teams in the six-team operation were the Berwick Shell Bruins, Dartmouth Hoyt's Arrows, East Hants (Lantz) Penguins, Halifax Colonels, Kentville Riteway Rangers, and the Windsor Royals.
The Amherst Ramblers and the Truro Bearcats replaced the Berwick and Kentville franchises for 1968-69. The first two MVJBHL years were dominated by East Hants and Windsor. These teams, however, did not fare well in the Provincial playoffs. That was about to change over the next few seasons.
The new Truro Bearcats became a dominant force in their second season, 1969-70, winning five MVJBHL championships and four Provincial titles over the next seven seasons. Amazingly, one player played on each of those five winning Bearcat teams, defenseman Albert Gamble.
At that time, when a team eliminated another team in their own league playoffs, the winner was permitted to pick up several additions from the losing team. The New Glasgow Bombers opted to pick Gamble up for their run at the Provincial title, which they won, in their MVJBHL winning season of 1972-73.
This gave Gamble the claim of having played for five Provincial champions in seven years. Due to the age restrictions imposed by Hockey NS a few years ago, Gamble's achievements will never be equaled.
During these early Metro-Valley Jr. 'B' years, their winners did well at the Provincial level but were no match for the PEI teams at the Maritime championship level.
For this reason, the MVJBHL opted to step up to the Jr. 'A' level for 1977-78. This would allow teams to bring in players from outside their immediate area (imports) and would allow them to be more competitive against the PEI teams at the Atlantic Championship level of play.
The budgets necessary to play at the Jr. 'A' level resulted in the immediate withdrawal of the Chester Ravens and the East Hants Penguins.
The next few seasons resulted in the Windsor Royals and the Truro Bearcats both ceasing operations in mid-season and withdrawing from the Metro-Valley Jr. 'A' Hockey League.
A few years later, in 1980-81, a former (and future) MVJBHL President, Al Hollingworth, formed a new Jr. 'B' league called the Mainland Jr. 'B' Hockey League. It had been hoped that some of the dormant teams from the MVJBHL would join. Those hopes were soon dashed.
This was the beginning of the NSJHL as we now know it today. Despite a few claims that the NSJHL is the continuation of the old MVJBHL, the Mainland League did not begin until four years after the Metro-Valley League turned Jr. 'A'.
Only one former MVJBHL team could be convinced to join the new Jr. 'B' circuit. The renamed South Shore (Chester Ravens) franchise was revived after having been dormant for three years.
The first year of the Mainland League began with seven teams, the Bedford Barons, Bridgewater Hawks, Sackville Blazers, Shannon (Park) Huskies, Spryfield Lions, South Shore Flyers, and the Valley Jets.
Year two, 1981-82, saw both Bridgewater and Sackville drop out leaving the league with five teams.
The third year, 1982-83, saw the loss of the Bedford Barons and South Shore Flyer teams, which were replaced by the return of the Sackville Blazers and a new entry playing out of Debert named the West Colchester Titans, leaving the Mainland Jr. 'B' League with five teams.
In 1983-84, the Truro Bearcats replaced the West Colchester entry, once again leaving the League at five teams.
In 1984-85, Shannon Park, Valley, and Spryfield withdrew, leaving the league with only two teams. The East Hants Penguins and Windsor Royals quickly joined to form a four-team league that stayed intact for the next several years.
The addition of the St. Margaret's Bay Mariners for 1988-89 made it a five-team league for the next couple of years, but the East Hants Penguins left after the 1989-90 season to return to Jr. 'A'. This left the league with four teams once again.
At the end of the 1990-91 season, the Sackville Blazers withdrew, leaving only three teams. To complicate matters, both the League President and founder, Al Hollingsworth, and the League Statistician, Charles Beckwith, of Truro, resigned.
The St. Margaret's Bay owner, Dave Campbell, assumed the role of new League President. Allan Fraser was named the new Statistician.
The Springhill Ropak Rangers joined the League to give it four teams for 1991-92, and the Mainland Jr. 'B' League continued.
The new League Executive soon set a mandate to have the league expand to ten teams by 1995, only four years down the road. That mandate did not look promising at the year's end when both the St. Margaret's Bay and Truro teams withdrew.
The newly named Springhill Premium Moosehead Dry was convinced to return, and the folding of the Cape Breton Jr. 'B' Hockey League saw two new teams join, the Cape Breton (Sydney) Jr. Millionaires and the Pt. Hawkesbury Strait Pirates. This gave the League four teams, once again, for 1992-93.
Following the 1992-93 season, the League was renamed the Nova Scotia Jr. 'B' Hockey League. The 1993-94 season saw the Springhill team withdraw, but the return of the Chester Ravens and the Sackville Blazers raised the number of teams to five.
The 1994-95 season saw the addition of the Antigonish Jr. 'B' Bulldogs and the Pictou County Station House Icemen. Along with the return of the Bedford Barons, the league had now reached eight teams for the first time.
The league was divided into two divisions, East and West, which would allow for an unbalanced schedule as a way to cut down on travel costs.
The 1995-96 season saw the Bedford Barons leave, but the addition of the Halifax Molson Canadian Blues and the Colchester County K&K Truck Center Titans gave the league nine teams.
The hard work and dedication of the new League Executive paid off and left the League only one team short of the mandate set four years earlier of having a ten-team league by the 1995-96 season.
The withdrawal of the Halifax Molson Canadian Blues left the league with eight teams for the next four seasons. The Colchester County K&K Truck Center Titans moved their operations from Debert to Brookfield for 1996-97 to become the Colchester County Sports Eagle Experts.
Other name changes saw the Pictou County Labatt Icemen become the Pictou County Molson Canadians, the Sydney Jr. 'B' Millionaires became the Cape Breton Alpines, and the Pt. Hawkesbury Strait Pirates were now known as the Strait Molson Pirates.
Several other teams had added a sponsor to their name. The teams became known as the Windsor Moosehead Royals, the Sackville Mitchell Printing Blazers, and the Chester Canexel Ravens.
The 1997-98 season saw the Colchester County Sports Eagle Experts become the Brookfield Elks, the Pictou County Molson Canadians became the Pictou County Subways.
The Cape Breton Alpines remained the same, but all other teams dropped the sponsors from their names as a way to set an example for youth that did not associate alcohol with sports.
The League remained unchanged for the next few years with the same franchises. In 2000-01, the return of the East Hants Penguins, along with a new franchise, the Oxford Blues, allowed the League to finally reach ten teams. One team was added to each division to give them five teams in each.
The Chester Ravens asked for a one-year leave of absence after the 2001-02 season leaving the league at 9 teams for 2002-03.
The Oxford Blues requested a one-year leave of absence for 2003-04, and the Chester Ravens withdrew from the league, leaving it with eight teams.
In 2004-05, the return of the renamed Oxford team as the Cumberland County Blues raised the number of teams to nine.
In 2005-06, the Cape Breton Alpines moved from Sydney to become the Whitney Pier Molson Canadians. Along with the entry of the new Bay Ducks franchise, the league was back to ten teams.
The 2006-07 season saw the Whitney Pier team take a leave of absence to leave the league at nine teams. The league also opted to change its name to the NSJHL, omitting the Jr. 'B' designation.
It was felt that the Jr. 'B' label gave the impression of it being a second-rate level of hockey or an inferior product. The East and West Divisions were renamed to become the Sid Rowe Division (East) and the Fred Fox Division (West).
Whitney Pier returned as the Cape Breton Molson Canadians for the 2007-08 season playing out of Dominion, raising the league to ten teams once again. The Pictou County Subways changed their name to the Pictou County Scotians.
The 2008-09 season saw the East Hants Penguins take a leave of absence, dropping the league to nine teams. The Cumberland County Blues were moved from the Sid Rowe Division to the Fred Fox Division, and the Cape Breton team moved their home games from Dominion to Glace Bay.
The 2009-10 season saw the return of the East Hants Penguins, raising the number of teams back to ten. The Cumberland County Blues shifted back to the Sid Rowe Division.
The NSJHL has come a long way since the early days and has never been stronger or healthier. The future has never looked so promising.
League history was written by JPA.