The latest on the Abitibi Eskimos

Abitibi Eskimos are the pride of Iroquois Falls and surrounding area, a jewel of a Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League franchise.

The Eskimos have been a part of the NOJHL for 13 years and are considered a model club, operating out of a small town of 5,000 and playing out of stately Jus Jordan Arena, aka the Igloo.

It takes considerable hard work from volunteers and a good chunk of cash to operate a franchise in the NOJHL and no where is that more true than in the northeastern Ontario town of Iroquois Falls.

The good news is that the folks who operate the Abitibi franchise have overseen 13 years of fundraising that has brought in $2.5 million. The bad news is that the team has spent $2.65 million in the 13 years, which is a shortfall of $150,000.

Eskimos president Scott Marshall, who heads up an 11-person Board of Directors and another 50 volunteers, told me today that his group has never tried to sell the flagship NOJHL franchise.

However, since the 2011-12 NOJHL season ended for the Eskimos, Marshall told me that they have been approached by two groups looking to purchase the Abitibi franchise.

“One group was more serious than the other,” said Marshall. “We have had a series of meetings with the more-serious group.”

The end result, however, is that the Eskimos are staying in Iroquois Falls at the beloved Igloo and will not be changing ownership.

“It was tempting to say ‘maybe we should just sell’ because running the hockey club is very consumming and it can be very exhausting,” Marshall added. “But if we sold the team, the buyer was going to relocate and we couldn’t stand the thought of not having the Abitibi Eskimos in Iroquois Falls.”

Marshall confirmed that if sold, the Eskimos would have wound up in nearby Timmins.

“Nothing against Timmins as we get a lot of fans from there but they don’t have an arena that is suitable for the NOJHL. To be honest, I think we have the best facility in the NOJHL,” Marshall said evenly.

Having decide to stay put, Marshall said the Eskimos are also intent on increasing their budget from $225,000 a year to $300,000 in an effort “to become a better franchise. The status quo is not going to fly.”

In order to try to achieve that goal, the Eskimos are going to establish the “Igloomaniac Wall of Fame” in which any citizen or business who makes an “outright donation” of $500 or more gets his, her or its name on a wall at Jus Jordan Arena.

As well, the Eskimos hope to raise an additional $100,000 in corporate advertising and sponsorship as opposed to the $60,000 per annum that they normally come up with.

“We have no problem with our attendance,” Marshall added. “We draw 40 per cent of our fans from regions outside of Iroquois Falls. Our attendance is good.”

To be sure, the Eskimos averaged 610 fans per game during the 2011-12 season. Only the North Bay Trappers (664) and the Michigan Soo Eagles (638) averaged more than the pesky Eskis.

Marshall also noted that since word began to circulate that the Eskimos might be sold and moved out of Iroquois Falls, new supporters have “come out of the woodwork. It’s almost been like a rallying cry.”

18 thoughts on “The latest on the Abitibi Eskimos

  1. ABITIBIAN

    RR, This is great news…it would have been a shame to see the Igloo empty next season , we don`t even have a Midget team anymore.
    This is a hefty budget & raising it to $300,000 makes it all more difficult to stay afloat.
    See you at the Igloo !!

  2. northenlites

    Great news to hear the Eskies will stay in their beloved home. We can be proud and well should be of this organization, say thank you to the hard workers when you run into them in town. The Eskies and the NOJHL what a combo.

  3. North bay hockey

    RR can you confirm that 3 tbirds have been suspended from attending the Dudley? Also I heard pending an investigation from the commish the NOJHL may not allow the tbirds to attend the Dudley??? Would that mean the trappers go…. If there is any truth to this I feel sorry for whatever 20 year olds were not involved in the off ice issue…. However I work with a few part time nippissing students from the Soo and they sure had a lot to spill over he Past few years regarding the thunderbirds rep around town… But anyway I hope the nojhl dose well at the Dudley it’s thunder bay, soo, wilderness so far.

  4. Randy Russon Post author

    North bay hockey,

    Haven’t heard anything about what you are asking with regards to Thunderbird players or the Thunderbirds as a team not being allowed to go to the Dudley.

    Regards,

    RR

  5. Trapperfan

    Great news about the Eskis, love the Igloo, tough barn to play in for many teams, but that is due to great fans that fill the seats!!
    See you all next season!!

  6. Eskifan

    So happy to hear Eskies staying in I.F. As a parent of a former Eskie, I loved the Igloo experience. As a far as the community, there was no better. The host families, fans and coaches were amazing and I was very disappointed to hear that they may leave the area. Timmins is a great town, but there is no place like the Igloo!

  7. upfront

    North bay hockey
    All rumors

    The Whole team was told yesterday at practice and again today be ready the bus leaves at 8am on Monday morning

  8. FormerEskimo#31

    RR.

    I am a bit confused with the potential Abitibi Eskimos budget. I have read in the Timmins Daily Press that the Eskimos are hoping to raise their club-operating budget of about $225,000 to $275,000 in time for next season, but in your article, the numbers are $225,000 a year to $300,000 in an effort “to become a better franchise. Between the two articles, there is a difference of about $50K-$75K. Can you confirm what the real number they are trying to achieve.

    Nevertheless, I do love reading your articles.

  9. Randy Russon Post author

    FormerEskimo#31,

    The numbers I used are the numbers provided to me by Eskimos president Scott Marshall.

    Regards,

    RR

  10. FormerEskimo#31

    Here is the Daily Press article I was talking abut.

    Gagne staying with Eskis for 2012/13
    ESKIMOS: Club is looking to raise its budget for next season

    By CHRIS RIBAU
    Posted 5 hours ago

    Paul Gagne has been at the helm of the Eskis for more than a decade and the 2012/13 season will be no different.

    Rumours have been circulating that Gagne was leaving the Abitibi Eskimos of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League to pursue a coaching position elsewhere, however, those rumours couldn’t be further from the truth.

    “I can tell you that Paul Gagne is still staying on to coach 100%,” said Scott Marshall, president of the Eskimos. “There’s rumours flying around out there that he’s going somewhere else. There is no truth to that whatsoever.”

    Gagne added, “For sure I’ll be returning as the coach. I’m happy to be involved in hockey with a great organization. It’s good to give back to the kids the knowledge that I have.”

    The Eskimos will be entering their 14th season in Iroquois Falls and since then Gagne has only missed two years.

    As far as locking up Gagne to coach the Eskis next season, Marshall believes shaking hands is just a good as a contract.

    “Paul and I have been friends for 30 years, so our contract is we talk and we shake hands. We’re men of our word.”

    Gagne said, “I enjoy doing what I’m doing and we’ll try to put together a winning team for next year.”

    Recruiting the next crop of talent

    Part of the strategy for developing a winning team starts with the franchise’s bottom line.

    Over 13 years, the club has raised more than $2.5 million to stay in Iroquois Falls, which is “good,” said Marshall. However the team has spent about $2.65 million.

    As of the 2011/12 season, the club was operating on a budget of about $225,000. However, the executive branch of the Eskis is hoping to raise that number to $275,000 in time for next season with the hope that a higher budget will allow the team to compete in the very competitive NOJHL.

    “The plan is we want to get our program to the next level,” said Marshall.

    Gagne added, “Just on our recruiting it’s very difficult with the kids because they like to go south, but I think with increasing the budget it should help with recruiting players and It would help with expenses. We’d like to work something to out to have an incentive for the players to want to play up North and that way we can have better players who want to play here.”

    We’ve always said that we want to get to the next level, meaning we want to get better and have a winning team. If we can do that by having better recruitment, then we’ll have better players and a better program on the ice. There are a lot of prospects out there. We’ve had our scouts doing their work all winter long, watching the players so that’s a bonus.”

    In order to achieve their goal of increasing the budget by $50,000, the club is reaching out to “hockey people” and “dedicated fans” to make the goal a reality.

    “We’re talking about having an Igloomaniac

  11. Blue Liner

    What difference does it make. You have a reporter who may have misunderstood. Let’s just be happy with the fact that some people are trying their darndest to keep the team in Iroquois Falls.

  12. northenlites

    I for one could not be happier, The Eskies and the Igloo were made for each other, great hockey great games, the NOJHL is a league to be reckoned with and it will only get better, A big thanks to the great workers of the Eskies who work year long to give us this brand of hockey, keep up the great work, it is well appreciated

  13. stick

    Now that the Eskis are staying it’s up to the town folks to get behind their team and show some $$ support. The play-offs were a let down as far as I.F.s fans showing support.

  14. Peachy

    Thunderturds win Thunderturds win
    ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    Peachy get lucky now
    ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

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