The return of Elliot Lake

It’s been a long road back.

For the first time since 1999, the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League has a presence in the Algoma District town of Elliot Lake.

Having spent the previous five seasons in the non-sanctioned, Greater Metro Jr. Hockey League, the Elliot Lake Bobcats will debut in the NOJHL this 2012-13 campaign under the direction of owner-general manager-coach Ryan Leonard.

The Bobcats make their official return to the NOJHL with their regular-season home opener on Friday, Sept. 7 against the North Bay Trappers.

The 32-year old Leonard, a former Sault Ste. Marie resident, successfully operated the Elliot Lake franchise for five seasons in the so-called Outlaw League, winning one championship and compiling an eye-popping, overall record of 158-38-15 along the way.

Leonard, who also works as an educational assistant within the Algoma District School Board, has displayed good business sense in operating a junior hockey franchise.

“Before we granted Ryan an expansion franchise for Elliot Lake, we did a thorough check on him,” said NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca. “Not only did he run a successful program on the ice, he operated it in a tidy fashion on the business side.”

In moving to the NOJHL as an owner, GM and coach, Leonard returns to the junior league of which he has a prior association.

As a player, Leonard was a high-scoring forward with the Soo Thunderbirds and Abitibi Eskimos. And before setting up shop as an owner in Elliot Lake, Leonard was an assistant coach with the Blind River Beavers for three years.

His father, Paul Leonard Jr. and his grandfather, Paul Leonard Sr., also have a junior hockey history.

Paul Jr. was a goalie with the Jr. B team in Blind River when it was a part of the erstwhile International Jr. Hockey League. And Paul Sr. is a founder of the original Blind River Jr. B franchise and legendary former sportscaster with radio stations CJNR (Blind River) and CKCY (Sault Ste. Marie.)

Young Leonard, to be sure, is excited about being back in the NOJHL.

“We have established a good program and a good fan base over five years in Elliot Lake,” said Leonard. “Nothing against the league we were in but not being sanctioned by Hockey Canada, the OHF and the NOHA had its drawbacks. Talking to our fans, they are excited to be a part of the NOJHL.

The energetic, effervescent Leonard has put together a hockey staff that includes former NOJHL head coach Todd Stencill and Sault Ste. Marie residents Chad Vresk, Brad Boyer and Charly Murray.

Stencill, who lives in Elliot Lake, previously coached with success in the NOJHL for four seasons — three with Blind River and one with erstwhile Manitoulin Islanders. In fact, while Stencill was head coach in Blind River, Leonard was his top assistant.

Meanwhile, Vresk serves as the Bobcats vice president of hockey operations while Boyer and Murray will assist in the scouting department.

The Bobcats have 25 players signed and moved into billet homes as they prepare for the fast-approaching NOJHL regular season. The players are a cross-section of talent from northern Ontario, southern Ontario and the United States.

Elliot Lake, a town of just over 11,000 residents, is situated about 20 miles off Highway 17 along Highway 108. It is about 35 miles from Blind River and roughly 120 miles from Sault Ste. Marie.

24 thoughts on “The return of Elliot Lake

  1. fanman

    The Bobcats website has an article dated Aug. 9th that mentions the fact they had 25 players signed. This is the earliest I’ve ever heard of a Junior A team having signed literally their entire roster. If they come out of the blocks quick watch for other teams to change their signing process next year.

  2. Old Viking

    Great article Randy ! I have always enjoyed your articles over the years and your reporting on the radio doing games back in the old days of CJNR-Blind River, CKNR-Elliot Lake & CJWA-Wawa! I remember you well and congadulate you on still being in the buziness after so many years. I hope to see you in Blind or Elliot for games this comming season. I live close to both places and still visit often as part of my job. Take care and keep up the great work!
    GO BOBCATS
    GO BEAVERS
    BRING BACK THE MANITOULIN ISLANDERS!

  3. Brother99

    It was intersting to watch the Bobcats try-outs. I think coach Ryan Leonard had the right idea. He said he was going to sign the majority of players at that try-out and from what I seen he had a lot of talent to choose from. He will ice a competitive team. Was anyone able to see his weekend skates?

  4. Randy Russon Post author

    NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE MEDIA RELEASE

    NOJHL Notebook: Preseason game added as Soo to visit Elliot Lake Thursday

    SUDBURY –- The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League has announced that one game has been added to the preseason schedule.

    That contest will be played Thursday evening in Elliot Lake as the expansion Bobcats host the defending NOJHL and Dudley-Hewitt Cup champion Soo Thunderbirds at Centennial Arena. Action gets underway at 8 p.m.

    The addition of that match-up brings the league’s preseason game total to eight with three of those games having already been played.

    Here is a recap of those first three contests:

    AUG. 24 – KIRKLAND LAKE GOLD MINERS 8 ABITIBI ESKIMOS 2: The hometown Gold Miners scored three times in each of the first two periods in grabbing a 6-2 lead after 40 minutes before putting the game away in the final frame with two more tallies in the preseason opener for both clubs.

    Tanner Lafrance opened the scoring for Kirkland Lake five minutes into the contest while teammates Jordan Turbide and Jordan Briand extended the cushion to 3-0 later in the stanza.

    Kealy Cummings then put the Eskis on the board late in the opening frame.

    After Abitibi captain Richard Therrien pulled his side to within one courtesy of an early power play marker, Kirkland Lake responded with Kyle Bishop, Gordie Sinclair and Anthony Duquette all scoring to put then up by four after two periods.

    Joe Ftoma and Duquette’s second of the night rounded out the scoring in the third.

    Mike Hynes started and played half the game in picking up the victory in net for the Gold Miners allowing two goals. Bryden Daoust was spotless in relief in his stint between the pipes.

    Nick Heimer was tagged with the loss for the Eskimos allowing four goals in just over 22 minutes of work with Martin Bilodeau going the rest of the way for Abitibi.

    AUG. 25 – KIRKLAND LAKE GOLD MINERS 4 ABITIBI ESKIMOS 1: The Miners completed the sweep of the home-and-home skating to the 4-1 triumph in a fog-filled Jus Jordan Arena caused by sweltering temperatures outside and chilled ice indoors.

    After Turbide put the visitors on top 3:20 into the game, Abitibi’s Aaron Sullivan struck early in the middle session to level the proceedings.

    Briand however notched his second consecutive game-winner near the midway point of the contest putting Kirkland Lake up for good. Duquette and Turbide then added insurance efforts in the third to wrap-up the scoring.

    AUG. 27 – ELLIOT LAKE BOBCATS 5 SUDBURY NICKEL BARONS 3: Elliot Lake made their unofficial NOJHL preseason debut Monday skating past Sudbury at McClelland Arena in Copper Cliff.

    Charlie Venedam’s goal midway through the third period proved to be the game-winner as the Bobcats earned the victory in t

  5. Randy Russon Post author

    NORTH BAY TRAPPERS MEDIA RELEASE

    The North Bay Jr. ‘A’ Trappers hockey club named
    19-year-old forward Brad Edwards their team captain
    the day of the organization’s first pre-season game of
    the new season.
    Edwards played in all 50 regular season games last
    season and is the clubs’ highest scoring returning
    forward as he recorded 21 goals and added 46 assists
    for the Jr. ‘A’ Trappers in his first season of junior
    hockey.
    “It’s a great honour in an organization like this to
    have myself named team Captain,” stated the 19-yearold
    2nd year forward. “I had such a good time playing here last year, I think it’s a honour to be able to lead this hockey club. My motto is you get out of it what you put into it, I’m just going to encourage every one to work as hard as they can and do the best that they can. Not much is going to change in my role from last season, the best way to lead is by example.” said Edwards. “I’m truly honoured as we have alot of character guys in our dressing room again this season with every one of them being just as worthy. Coach McCarthy will not be disappointed.”

    Trappers head coach Tom McCarthy already saw the Napanee, Ontario native’s leadership qualities put in motion last season and had Edwards penciled in as this seasons captain early last spring.
    “Bradley was awarded the Best Defensive forward throughout the NOJHL last year proving his respect for responsibility to the game. Never the less, Brad has excellent offensive skills and has an outstanding work ethic. In my mind this young man exemplifies the ideal
    characteristics of a leader, both on and especially off the ice.” stated Coach McCarthy. “It wont be difficult for our Trapper family to rally around our Captain this season. We are very proud to have Brad Edwards represent our hockey club.”

    Anyone interested in North Bay Jr. ‘A’ Trappers season tickets is
    asked to call the Memorial Gardens Box Office at 474-3770
    or you can reach Duran Size directly at 705) 492 7871.

  6. fanman

    When will the schedule be posted and when will transactions in the league be updated. I notice other Junior A leagues have massive transactions listed throughout the summer. Thanks.

  7. Ryan Leonard

    The Bobcats played 5 games in 7 days to end their exhibition season. We have a very tired bunch as we had some guys off at OHL camps one of our top guys injured in ex game and all our players trying to adjust to the speed of the league and the style of the game.

    Some ask why we played so many game? This is why we are coming in with no veterian players all our players are new to the league and dont have expierence in the NOJHL. So the more games we played they can get use to the speed the style and also how the games are played in whole. We have alot of guys from MNJHL,GMHL,GNML,GLJHL and all need time to adapt.

    We won our 1st game vs Sudbury in Sudbury 5-3 . We then played Soo in Elliot Lake lost 6-3 then next night played Sudbury again in Espanola and dropped a very tight close game to Sudbury in the last part of the 3rd 6-4. We went into the Soo the next night with a very tired bunch and the Soo was too much for us to handle after the midway point of the 2nd and they beat up on us 7-1 then 12 hrs later of getting off the bus from playing the Soo we were at it again this afternoon vs the Blind River Beavers and we played our best game out of the 5 and took a 2-1 win in close tight battle.

    We are pleased with our team we have alot of talent and speed we do know now what areas to work on… of coarse we have many but we see us being competitive every night and when we get all the guys back this week and get our lines where we need them as we have been rolling 25 guys in and out and played them all equally during exhibition we will be ready to battled once the puck drops for when it counts. We will now give our guy 2 days to themselves to recoup from a dreadful first 8 days in Elliot Lake. We have not gave them 4 hrs of their own time yet to adjust here. Bobcats home oppener is Friday 730 vs North Bay

  8. bayinfo

    Press release;

    The North Bay Junior ‘A’ Trappers Hockey Club solidified their goaltending position with the acquisition of 20-year-old goaltender Greg Dodds, from the St. Mary Lincoln’s of the Greater Ontario Junior ‘B’ Hockey League.

    The 20-year-old Wingham, Ontario native has had a solid camp with the Junior Trappers this summer with the hopes of leading the North Bay squad throughout what is expected to be a very exciting NOJHL season in a year where the club hosts the CENTRAL CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS, held this spring in North Bay.

    Dodds is excited about the opportunity to play for the Trappers and compete in a program that takes the promotion of their players to U.S. College hockey programs seriously.

    “I wanted to put myself in the best possible position to move on to the NCAA level and feel the Trappers were the team that I thought would best help me achieve that goal,” said Dodds.

    It didn’t take long for coach McCarthy to take notice of Dodds’ abilities at Trappers camp.

    “We are very excited to have a mature, confident netminder in Greg in place this year,” said McCarthy.

    “His ability to stay square to the puck and the level in which he competes will compliment how our team plays in front of Greg each night, he also handles the puck like a 3rd deman out there which is very important on our big ice. We are very high on Greg Dodds leading our hockey club this season between the pipes and even better, Greg is a good person too.”

    Trappers Director of Operations Tim Clayden piped in stating, “many want to keep talking about Hosting the Central Canadian Championships this spring in North Bay. We need to stop talking about the Dudley and start preparing for a long, hard, battling season as this year more than ever, we expect the NOJHL to be very well balanced and competitive as all league partners want to be our dance partners this spring. We need to get to
    work and come prepared each and every night in order to go through the tournament front doors. We need to worry about the spring next March and begin to take no NOJHL team for granted between now and then; every night. It’s time to get to work on playing some very good and consistent regular season hockey and start letting the schools know where these terrific young men are, it’s time has come to stop talking and start playing.”

    Anyone interested in North Bay Jr. ‘A’ Trappers season tickets is asked to call the Memorial Gardens Box Office at (705)474-3770 or you can reach Duran Size directly at (705)492-7871.

  9. Scott Marshall

    The “new and improved” NOJHL.com is now up and running.
    It may take 24 hours or so for new DNS pointers to propagate throughout internet. Some fans may be able to view the new site before others.
    The new NOJHL.com is still a work in progress and you will see additional content and features added over the next few weeks including historical statistics and news items. Your patience while we work through this transition process will be appreciated.
    If you have any suggestions, comments or constructive criticism, please don’t hesitate to email our webmaster Ian Gray. His email address is available on the About>Contacts tab at NOJHL.com

  10. john-kl

    season opens tonight, I see on Randy’s latest article that he is picking a toss up between North Bay and SSM for first with possibly Iroquois Falls in the mix….REALLY??? I think that North Bay SHOULD be very strong, and that Cain will have a competitive team in SSM, after that there will be a battle with most of the rest of the teams. The Gold Miners, if they get goaltending could be a force..if the team does not come out of the gate the way that coach Lafleur beleives they should then i can see some quick changes to this roster because he will not settle for anything but a competitive team and his coaching ability will be a definite asset. It will be very interesting this year, i really cannot see having a couple of teams like KL and Blind River were last season…could be a very tight race all the way through which will make it even more important to start the season strong and build up points for later….

  11. bayinfo

    new site looks great , just missing season previews on suds and e lake as of last night, but great to see, and a good job and design

  12. stic

    Cant see the Eskimos any where near the Soo or Bay unless they find some top notch players very soon. Kl could be the sleeper team.

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