Founded in 1911 by the late Frank D. Smith, The Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) is a not-for-profit organization and is the largest amateur minor hockey league in the world. The GTHL consists of a league of 10,000 rep players from Minor Atom to Juvenile (9-20 year olds) and an additional 30,000 affiliated house league players between the ages of 4 and 21. In addition, the GTHL provides jurisdiction for the Mississauga Hockey League (MHL), Scarborough Hockey Association (SHA), and the North York Hockey League (NYHL). In total, approximately 40,000 players on 2,800 teams.
Many elite hockey players have graduated from the GTHL system over the years. In fact, over the past decade, each year there have been at least 65 active NHL roster players who were graduates of the GTHL. Some of the past and present greats include Frank Selke, Frank Mahovlich, Brendan Shanahan, Eric Lindros, Rick Nash, Jason Spezza, John Tavares, and many more.
In 1976-77 the MTHL (now GTHL) won the National Midget Championship in Moncton, New Brunswick. Since that time, no team from Toronto has won this prestigious Championship, now called the Telus Cup.
This Championship has been dominated over the past twenty years by teams from Quebec and the West, where the structure of hockey is considerably different than Ontario. Currently, we have a club system with fairly strict residency rules, while they focus more on private sport schools and “all star” type teams.
Midget AAA hockey in Ontario has been under a great deal of stress in recent years. Lowering the age of the OHL Midget Draft to 15 from 16 has had a profound impact. Drafted players felt they were too good to play Midget, and those that were not drafted, felt their dream of Jr., College, or professional hockey was over, and it was time to focus on other things, which may or may not include Midget AAA hockey. Thankfully, things are changing, and for the better.
Until recently, there were 36 Provincial Jr “A” teams in the GTA. After several years of poor performance, and an almost complete disappearance of US College scouts, the league decided to cut back to 22 teams (2012-13). This will greatly strengthen their league and bring back the College scouts.
The benefits of this cut back in Jr “A” teams to midget hockey in the GTHL are clear and substantial. Many more top end players will be available, and with the high quality of coaching that exists in the GTHL AAA Midget loop (see right), the upside for players is huge. OHL clubs are now recommending Midget AAA for many of their drafted players.
In recent years the GTHL and its member clubs have worked hard to strengthen Midget AAA hockey, with weekend double headers, a more focused approach on the needs of the 16 and 17 year old student athlete, and a significant improvement in the level of coaching and training, all designed to ensure a players overall hockey and personal development continues at a high level.