Changes within the Big Three

For starters, a pair of respected, former champions are making a return to the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.

In fact, the NOJHL’s “Big Three” franchises from the larger centres of North Bay, Sudbury and the Soo will all have a decidedly-different look when the first puck drops on the 2012-13 season in September.

SUDBURY

They used to be known as the Sudbury Northern Wolves, then the Sudbury Jr. Wolves, then the Sudbury Cubs.

Now, with new owner Mike Mooney Jr. in place, they are the Sudbury Nickel Barons.

But while the owner and name are new, the Nickel Barons have dipped into Sudbury’s NOJHL past by bringing good guy Dave Clancy on board as head coach.

Clancy has a championship to his credit from when Sudbury was the Jr. Wolves and owned by the Ontario Hockey League Sudbury Wolves.

Known as a player’s coach who can be tough when he has to, Clancy is a good, safe, dependable hire for the Nickel Barons, who under new owner Mooney and general manager Oscar Clouthier will try to establish a solid NOJHL franchise in a hockey town that is dominated by the OHL Wolves.

Can that be done out at McClelland Arena in the sleepy Greater Sudbury town of Copper Cliff?

Properly marketed and properly run, there’s no reason why the Nickel Barons can’t make a go of it in an area where the OHL is the no. 1 draw.

Afterall, Soo Thunderbirds have managed to increase their following over the past couple of years in a city where the Greyhounds and the OHL are the no. 1 draw.

The Nickel Barons, to be sure, have experienced hockey people on board in the GM’s office and in the coach’s corner.

GM Clouthier has spent time in both the OHL and NOJHL in scouting, managerial positions and Coach Clancy also has past ties to both leagues.

NORTH BAY

As the NOJHL in Sudbury and the Soo plays second line behind the OHL, the Trappers of North Bay compete with the Nipissing University Lakers for fan support and media coverage in the Gateway City.

With a reputable coach already in place in Tom McCarthy, who will begin his second season in North Bay in the fall, the Trappers have brought in one of the most-respected executives in Canadian Jr. A hockey to run the show.

Tim Clayden, who was a behind-the-scenes force when North Bay was known as the Skyhawks and Guy Blanchard was taking the bows for three straight championships beginning with the 2002-03 season, is back in town as the Trappers new sheriff.

Clayden, who followed his NOJHL success with the old Skyhawks by annually building contending teams in the ultra-competitive Ontario Jr. Hockey League, takes charge of the Trappers as director of hockey operations, while retaining a deep, dedicated staff that includes Coach McCarthy, president and general manager Chris Dawson, vice president Dean Pauli and assistant GM Randy Blake.

Known as a true hockey guy and a wheeler-dealer with coast-to-coast contacts, Clayden enhances the credibility of the Trappers and strengthens the hockey and business departments as the team prepares to play host to the 2013 Dudley Hewitt Cup, Central Canada Jr. Championships.

A no-nonsense individual with a reputation of being tough but fair, there isn’t much doubt in the minds of junior hockey insiders that the Trappers are positioned for the long run with Clayden at the helm.

SOO

With erstwhile head coach Preston Mizzi beginning a two-year suspension from the NOJHL and primary assistant Jamie Henderson cooling his heels for a year in the wake of a league investigation into alleged alcohol use on the team bus involving staff and players, the reigning champion Thunderbirds are in a state of rebuild.

It has been learned that secondary assistant Warren LaVoy has applied for the vacant head coaching position and it is known that general manager Kevin Cain has reached out to cerebral, level-headed Dennis Bolton about a position within the Thunderbird organization.

Bolton, a retired corrections officer, has spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach with the Soo Eagles, who have departed the NOJHL for the North American Hockey League effective the upcoming season.

“I can only confirm that I have been approached by the GM of the T-Birds to consider assuming a role within their organization. I would say that at this point I have no aspirations to become a head coach,” Bolton told me via e-mail. “I’d imagine that the T-Birds will be making an announcement about their coaching staff in the near future.”

It should be noted that Bolton has a standing offer from Eagles coach-general manager Bruno Bragagnolo to remain with the Michigan-based franchise as it prepares for its move to the NAHL.

The popular choice to lead the Thunderbirds as head coach is Toots Kovacs, who bailed out Cain and the entire Thunderbird organization when he stepped in as interim coach when Mizzi and Henderson were initially suspended indefinitely just prior to the team taking part in the Royal Bank Cup national junior tournament in May.

But Kovacs has career job commitments that make it difficult for him to assume a full role with the Thunderbirds, though he did tell me he would be available to assist on an “as needed” basis if he was asked.

To be sure, the Thunderbird organization is in a state of uncertainty.

Despite winning the NOJHL and Dudley Hewitt Cup championships during the 2011-12 season, the reputation of the franchise took a hit with all of the self-imposed negatvity that resulted from the alleged, repeated incidents of alcohol abuse on the team bus.

Thunderbird owner Albert Giommi has since put the team up for sale, saying he needs to concentrate on the businesses that he owns. But Giommi has been known to change his mind and to be impetuous and impulsive when it comes to running his hockey team.

Still, Giommi has done a lot to try to enhance the Thunderbirds profile in Sault Ste. Marie and deserves credit for his work on the business side of the franchise.

57 thoughts on “Changes within the Big Three

  1. Cassio

    I like the hiring of Clancy as opposed to Verreault. Both have been around Junior hockey in Sudbury for a long time however Clancy is more firm and direct and more personable which I think helps in relationships with Players, Fans & Media.
    As for North Bay, Claydon has a name as a tough SOB who knows Junior hockey inside & out and as RR says he makes the Trappers a better Organization.
    As for the Soo I would expect them to contend again. Cain is a proven G.M. in this League.

  2. BirdsFan1

    I wish Toots would take the Head Coach job he knows what it takes and would not take bull shit from Cain or Giomme. They are probably the reason Toots does not want the job and he has too much class to say that on the “record”. Good article as usual, RR.

  3. BirdsFan1

    I wonder how much covradge the Birds can expect this coming season? Cain and Giomme have managed to alienate the Sault Media including the Sault Star and RR himself. A pair of real Bird Brains!! Now bring Ted Brooks on Board and it will reely be a 3 Ring Circus!! Maybe this is there plan to get people talking about them LOL. reely now the Birds have managed to piss off the Star, RR, Billy Sims and my guess is Toots as well. All the lies caught up with the Thunderbirds – altho I hope for a fresh start as the Birds can take advantadge of the fact that they win and fans in the Sault are jumping off the Greyhound Bandwagen.

  4. Randy Russon Post author

    BirdsFan1,

    I cannot and will not speak for other media but I personally have no plans to alter my coverage of the Soo Thunderbirds for the 2012-13 season.

    Regards,

    RR

  5. Randy Russon Post author

    Thunderbirds trade Josh Hicks to Kingston of OJHL

    DOUG GRAHAM
    The Whig-Standard
    Kingston Kimco Voyageurs were busy on the hockey trade market Thursday.
    General manager Denis Duchesne secured defencemen Josh Hicks from the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds and two American players, Ross Kovacs and Blake O’Neill.
    “We really worked on shoring up the back end,” said Vees coach Colin Birkas.
    “Denis spent a lot of time on Hicks. He comes in highly touted as a shutdown-type player.”
    Duchesne said Hicks, 18, comes as part of a three-way deal. The Vees sent Jared Smith to the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba junior A league for cash. The Vees then used that money and defenceman Matt Eddy to pry Hicks away from the Soo.
    Eddy is a Sault Ste. Marie native.
    “To get quality you have to give up quality. We liked Eddy,” Duchesne said.
    “Hicks was playing 30 minutes a night at the RBC (Cup),” Birkas said. “We had scouts there who told us he is a can’t miss player.”
    Kovacs, from North Dakota, is a 20-year-old who was playing in Naples, Fla. He was considering playing in a U.S. junior hockey league.
    “He plays a similar style to Alex Pym (a Vees defenceman in the 2010-11 season),” Birkas said.
    O’Neill, who is from Fort Myers, Fla., and “plays with a lot of bite,” had been accepted to attend Yale University.
    “We just got a lot better with these deals,” Duchesne said. “We’re happy.”

  6. Randy Russon Post author

    Two former NOJHLers taken at today’s NHL Draft.

    Goalie Jake Paterson (Soo Eagles) goes in the third round to Detroit Red Wings.

    Defenceman Colin Miller (Soo Thunderbirds) goes in the fifth round to Los Angeles Kings.

  7. BirdsFan1

    RR: any news on new Coach of the Thunderbirds?? My source’s say Jim Capy as Head Coach and J Yardanof as Asst Coach.
    Reely though Cain should give Lavoy a chance as Head Coach.

  8. Beavers1

    Hey BirdsFan1: have you wiped the egg off of your face yet??? I guess your “sources” are not worth Bird shit ha ha ha ha ha
    …..
    any info from Beavers Try Out Camp in Sudbury?

  9. American Eagle

    TBirds got a good man in Denny Bolton – I wish he was coming with us to the “NA” but oh well good for him just the same.

  10. NAHLEagle

    Coach Bolton will bring some much needed dissipline to the Booze Birds!
    Seriously a good hire by Kevan Cain. I dont know much about Levoy but Dennis Bolton is respected & respactable as RR said on the JuniorHockey.com article.
    RR: Keep up the great work covring the NOJHL & now the NAHL as well.

  11. Cassio

    As the Sault Thunderbirds begin the rebuild and the Sudbury “Nickel Barons” in the rebuild mode as well the North Bay Trappers are in good position to have a strong club as hosts of the Dudley. Sault and Sudbury re-building also opens up the door for Abitibi, Kirkland Lake and purhaps even Blind River and the new Elliott Lake squad to win a few games.

  12. eaglefan

    Good acquisitions by Kevin Cain. Dennis B. has hockey in his blood and brings with him his wonderful family, all avid, if not rabid, hockey people. Congratulations to Dennis and family. Best of luck in your new direction.

    A huge congrats to Warren L. Another class guy, in tandem with Dennis B. and Billy T. (another class act), should reach his personal goals and the team’s goals.

    Don’t sign off yet Albert!!!!! Good moves, Kevin.

  13. Michigan Warriors Fan

    I would like to see 2 teams from the “NOJHL” play a Tournament with 2 teams from the “North American Hockey League” namely the Soo Ste. Marie Eagles and the Team I root for the Michigan Warriors who are based out of Perani Arena in Flint. I am thinking that maybe Randy Russon could help set this up … he sure as hell seems to have the pulse on Junior Hockey in Canada as wel as Michigan.

  14. Golden Bear

    Denny Bolton and your wife Sandy, Thanks for all your work with the Soo Eagles, very much appreciated.

  15. Peachy

    no more trip to Zoo Michagan to drink Pisst Blue Ribben and Old Swillwakkee ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  16. Mike

    Checked out the first game of the Beavers tryout camp on Saturday. Not bad, not great. They should be better than last year depending on who they are able to sign. A few guys impressed but were only out for a skate apparently. McEwen is a good guy. The team is much better off with him there than lying Bryan. Did they sign players on Sunday?

  17. Mike

    How about the Sudbury “skate” on Friday? Big numbers? Must have been all local players. Another team that’s righting their ship after a few circus years. You just hope that local politics doesn’t take over and that they can attract more than 70 fans per game. Is the Burgess kid playing on that team next year?

  18. American Eagle

    Blind River and Elliot Lake should be going after player’s from the Soo Eagles who are free agents before Coach Bolton and the TBirds signs all of them!!!!!

  19. volcomatic

    Canadian Teams can sign America players but if they make an American team(USHL, NAHL or EJHL) They will lose their card. They better be sure before they sign an American player that he is not trying out anywhere in the US

  20. American Eagle

    Word is the TBirds will sign goalie Steve Dombrowsky from the Soo Indians Midgets.

  21. Toots Kovacs

    The thoughts and prayers of the Soo Thunderbirds organization, past and present as well as all NOJHL Teams, communities and fans are with the citizens of Elliot Lake during this tragic time. I can only imagine what the people of Elliot Lake are going through. It is amazing to see a community such as Elliot Lake band together and support one another in this time of need. Keep the faith.

  22. soo indians fan

    AE, I heard that also and if that’s the case the Birds got a very good goalie in Dowbrosky.

  23. Brad Coccimiglio

    I’m sure Randy will have a full post on this in the near future but the Thunderbirds have named Warren Lavoy as the team’s new head coach. Dennis Bolton joins the team as an assistant. Billy Thompson has been named the new Thunderbirds goaltending coach

  24. Randy Russon Post author

    Thanks Brad (although we did have the story posted on http://www.juniorhockey.com on Sunday). Regards, Randy

    Here is official release from Soo Thunderbirds:

    Press Release

    For Immediate Release

    Thunderbirds announce 2012-13 coaching staff

    Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. (June 26, 2012) – The Soo Thunderbirds have announced its coaching lineup for the upcoming Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League season. Warren Lavoy, an assistant coach with the team for the past two years, was elevated to the top coaching spot.

    “Warren has been a big part of our success over the past couple of seasons,” said general manager Kevin Cain, whose team took home the 2011-12 league, playoff and provincial (Dudley-Hewitt Cup) championships, the best finish in franchise history. “With his experience behind the bench, along with his leadership skills and solid rapport with players and staff, we look forward to continuing this success.”

    Meanwhile, Dennis Bolton will be an assistant coach with the Thunderbirds this upcoming campaign. He spent the past four years as an assistant with Michigan’s Soo Eagles, who have since left the NOJHL to join the North American Hockey League.

    “Dennis has an in-depth knowledge of the NOJHL and will be a huge asset for our organization,” said Cain. “He’s well respected throughout the league and a great addition to our staff.”

    Finally, Billy Thompson, a former netminder for the Soo Greyhounds, is the new goaltending coach for the Thunderbirds.

    The team had a number of solid applicants for the positions and plans on adding another assistant coach to the lineup in the near future, said Cain.

    More information on the Thunderbirds is available online at http://www.tbirdhockey.ca.

    -30-

    For more information, please contact:

    KEVIN CAIN

    General Manager

    Soo Thunderbirds

    705-989-5001

    kcain@tbirdhockey.ca

  25. Michigan Warriors Fan

    I just love this site and the JuniorHockey.com site Randy. Great work writing about Junior Hockey.

  26. Thunderbird Grad

    Lavoy the new Head Coach nice guy maybe but has he ever been a Head Coach of any high level team before?? We shall see I guess but this may be a long season ahead for the T-Birds although Cain has proved to be an excellent GM in building teams quickly.

  27. NBT10

    The “OHL Pipe Dream” is being heard faintly around North Bay (there was an article in the Nugget about it) but few people around town think the OHL is coming back to North Bay. I think we should just accept the Trappers and that the NOJHL is a pretty darn good league and as close as we’ll ever get to the OHL – and that is fine with me.

  28. Cassio

    It’s late June not close to hockey season but I am hearing positive vibes and talk about the “new” Sudbury Nickel Barons. It would be nice to see 300-350 people a game out in Copper Cliff.

  29. Beavers1

    I just went for a walk on Woodward Avenue in Blind River and I swear that I saw Peachy hiding under a rock LOL LOL LOL LOL a h a h a h a h a h a h a

  30. Eskis Fan in Kirkland Lake

    Its very very quiet up in the Land of the Eskimos!!! Any one have News to report?

  31. BirdsFan1

    Lets give Lavoy a chance and yes Cain has been good at bilding up the Thunderbirds these last 2 yrs.

  32. Cue For Treason

    I would like to see Showcase with NOJHL and NAHL teams too. That league is no better than our league.

  33. Peachy

    who can screw in this heet? ahahahahahahahaha ahahahahahaha we need to be in cold rink

    Beaver1 go screw you self ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  34. Hockey Advisor

    Randy should suspend this idiot Peachy from this blog!

    My “off season” prediction’s for the comming season:
    1st) North Bay 2nd) Abitibi 3rd) Sudbury 4th) Elliot Lake 5th) Soo 6th) Kirkland Lake 7th) Blind River

  35. Cassio

    Do not underestimate General Manager Kevin Cain & the Soo Thunderbirds. They get the best from the Soo hockey market which is #1 in Northern Ont most years & besides Cain is good for making trades i.e. Klienhans etc.

  36. Beavers1

    Beavers for last place eh “Hockey Advisor” !?!? Do you forecast weather as well !?!? If so let me know what the temperature will be in 6 months.

  37. eskisfan

    Not sure about the Eskis in 2nd place. They’re in rebuild mode as well. Not sure who beyond Therrien, Hamel, Cummings, Villeneuve, Rheault and Walker will be back.

    Kords and Delaurier going to school down south and i heard Columbus is going back to AAA midget in Timmins with the Majors.

    I actually hope the Eskis do make a youth movement. they never seem to rebuild. just pick up a few pieces and try to make run at it year after year. Last year is a prime example and of a collage and they never really gelled or formed a unit and that was obvious from Xmans on. The one time they won the league they returned like 15 skaters from the year before. I would like to see the Eskis search hard and load up with the best 17 and 18 year olds (even if that means trading some vets to get them) so next year or the year after they are back in position to make a serious run not only at the league but the DHC as well.

  38. Trapperfan

    Peachy bless your lil’ ole drunken heart…lol It is early yet but I have to agree with you on having the Trappers in first place…

  39. BirdsFan1

    My “early Bird” perdictions:
    1. North Bay
    2. Thunderbirds
    3. Abitibi
    4. Sudbury
    5. Kirkland Lake
    6. Elliott Lake
    7. Blind River

  40. eski01

    eskifan, problem is the kids leave for school at 18. All the good young prospects from last year are leaving for school.

  41. Tommy Hawk

    Happy Holiday Weekend

    early predictions are in then:

    1. Elliott Lake
    2. Abitibi / Timmins
    3. Nord Bay
    4. SOO
    5. Blind River
    6. Sudbury
    7. Kirkland Lake

  42. john

    predictions this season:

    1- North Bay
    2- Sudbury
    3- Thunder Bay
    4- Kirkland Lake
    5- Abitibi
    6- Elliot Lake
    7- Blind River

  43. Hawks_96

    My Predictions
    1. Abitibi
    2. North Bay
    3. Sudbury
    4. Blind River
    5. Soo
    6. Kirkland Lake
    7. Elliot Lake

    Lots can still happen from now to September.

  44. eaglefan

    My predictions:
    3
    7
    13
    21
    32
    40
    45
    and the Encore
    18

    I figure my predictions at this stage of the game, are just as likely as anyone elses’!!!

    And people knock Peachy for his ‘insights’!!!
    Hockey Advisor….ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha……….

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