Soo Thunderbird success benefits NOJHL

Soo Thunderbirds solid performance at this month’s Royal Bank Cup, national tournament, paid positive dividends for the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.

The Thunderbirds posted a 2-2 record during the five-team round-robin to advance to the semi-finals before losing 3-0 to the eventual Royal Bank Cup champion Penticton Vees.

It should be noted that the Thunderbirds actually defeated powerful Penticton during the round-robin portion of the tournament. The significance of the Thunderbird win was that not only did Penticton’s roster include no less than four National Hockey League draft picks but 16 players who have Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association scholarships for next season

NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca said the Thunderbirds represented the NOJHL with “honour, integrity and the utmost in class. It’s a credit to (interim coach) Toots Kovacs and everyone from the Thunderbirds who made the trip out west (to Humboldt, Sask.) for the Royal Bank Cup.”

Mazzuca added that several Major Junior, Canadian University, American University and — get this — NHL scouts and representatives were in Humboldt for the Royal Bank Cup and many were “astounded” at the skill level of the Thunderbirds.

“I told them that we (the NOJHL) are junior hockey’s best-kept secret,” Mazzuca relayed. “I think we are going to see a lot more scouts at our games next season. The way the Thunderbirds played and performed was a big boost for the entire NOJHL and a real credit to our league.”

Prior to their appearance at the Royal Bank Cup national tournament, a season fraught with drama, doubt, deception and due process delivered the Dudley Hewitt Cup, Central Canada Jr. A hockey championship to Sault Ste. Marie for the first time ever.

The Thunderbirds on-ice success of the 2011-12 season has made for a good story. In fact, it may be the top local sports story of the past year.

From the beginning of the 2011-12 campaign to the end of it, the Thunderbirds were the NOJHL’s best team.

And while there were unfortunate off-ice incidents that led to the NOJHL having to hire an independent, third-party investigator to look into alleged nonsense involving the Thunderbirds, the team did rebound to serve its city and league exceptionally well at the RBC.

So, what lies ahead for the Thunderbirds?

For starters, the coaching staff will be decidely different come the 2012-13 season.

Majority owner Albert Giommi will remain as a funder but will not be as active as he was in the president’s chair. More upper-level responsibility will be given to valued volunteers such as Carlo DiCandia and Enzo Coccimiglio.

Kovacs, the interim coach, once again proved to be priceless as a mentor and mediator to the franchise and can choose any future role that he may (or may not) want within the organization.

On the ice, several members of the 2011-12 title team have exhausted their junior eligibility, including goalie John Kleinhans, defencemen James Delayer and Kris Barclay and forwards Micky Sartoretto, Matt Amadio, Brett Campbell, Kevin Michelcavage and Cody Zorzi.

Several more could return in 2012-13, though some — defencemen Cory Jackson, Dylan Connolly, Brad Pascall, Josh Hicks and Jeremy Solomon and forwards Nick Romano and Jake Wright for instance — could opt for opportunities in southern Ontario or south of the border.

Regardless of all that happened during the 2011-12 season — on and off the ice — the Thunderbirds certainly seem to have done the NOJHL proud on the national stage.

18 thoughts on “Soo Thunderbird success benefits NOJHL

  1. SJD

    This NOJHL season was so exciting and has made me more of a fan for this level. The style of play is more exciting than the “O” – fans who don’t go to NOJHL games do not know what they are missing imo.

  2. Linda Lamorie

    Blind River Beavers Hire Coach

    For all of you who think the Blind River Beavers board of directors have been sitting on our butts doing nothing, you are very mistaken. We just don’t sit in the local coffee shop gossiping for the sake of having something to say, we speak when there is something to say.
    We are very excited to announce that Doug McEwen of Sudbury has been hired as our head coach.
    The decision was a hard one between two very qualified applicants, both having a wealth of knowledge and experience.
    Doug has quite a hockey history in Ontario and Great Britain.
    Played for the Elliot Lake Vikings from 1980-82, then went on to play for Humber College Hawks from 1984-86.
    From 1986-2006 Dougs career continued in Great Britain as both a player and coach, coaching many high end teams in Britains Peterborough area until returning to Ontario in 2006.
    2008/9 Doug was an assistant coach for the Sudbury MidgetAA Sharks, from there he went on to be an assistant coach for the Manitoulin Islanders in 2010/11.
    For the past 5 years Doug has coached at the Pro Tech Summer Hockey School.
    A couple of Dougs proud accomplishments in Britain are in 2003, he received Sportsman of the Year Award, and in 2005 he was Coach of the Year for the Peterborough Evening Telegraph Team, this is a very high award in Britain.
    During Dougs career in Britain he scored over 1000 goals, another great accomplishment.
    We are very pleased to have Doug on board and I’m sure our players will learn alot from him and respect him both as coach and person.
    Fans this should be a exciting year with many players returning and new ones coming on board. Season tickets are now available- call LeeAnn at 705-356-7571, come enjoy the game we all love and grew up watching, help make this our best year ever.
    Beaver tryout camp is in the works for late June, check the website for more info as it becomes available.

    Linda Lamorie
    Director for the Blind River Beavers Board

  3. Beavers1

    Way to go Linda – shoot off your mouth to Beavers fans who you want to support the team. Why not just give us the News about the new Coach without getting snarky? You need to take a course in Public Relations.

  4. Cue For Treason

    Good news that the Beavers have a coach. Thanks Linda for sharing the News! Lets play hockey…GO BEAVERS GO!

  5. Trapperfan

    Beaver’s Board of Director’s announcement is a welcome one for all those who embrace Jr A hockey in Blind River.
    Doug will definetly work hard with the boys there and will bring a different atmosphere at the rink for the fans (die hard and fairweather alike).
    Should be a competitive team with a resurection of a great rivalery between the Beavers and Bobcats!!

  6. Trapperfan

    To SJD I agree with you, all the clubs in the NOJHL are striving to put out very skilled and compettive hockey teams. With the Thunderbird’s fine showing at the RBC it is definetly a bonus and showed many there that this league is a good league to play in.

  7. tnc123

    Good job Linda! Glad to see the Beavers team is moving forward. I will miss Jim Capy but it was time to try some new blood on the bench. Who are going to be Doug’s assistant coaches?

    Beavers1: nice comments.

  8. Peachy

    Peachy get lukky many time in Blind River so many time I loose count ahahahahahahahahahaha ahahahahahahahahahaha
    ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  9. shutterbug

    Welcome news on the selection of a new coach for the Beavers, and lots of credentials too…now comeon Beavers fans, lets get out and show our support for the new coach and welcome him to Blind River ….first tryouts should be very interesting – new coach, new players and lots of guts….lookout Ryan, we’re comin after you this year…

  10. Linda Lamorie

    Blind River Beavers say:

    Try out camp will be held June 23rd & 24th at the
    Countryside Arena in Sudbury
    Registration @ 9AM
    For further info contact the following:
    kerry_joncas12@hotmail.com
    OR
    blindriverbeavers.com

  11. stick

    Good news with the Beavers looks like a 7 team league again depending what happens in Suds.

  12. ABITIBIAN

    For us… no news is good news !!!lol .
    As reported by RR, Coach Gagné is staying put, the team is staying in I-Falls, the early bird season drive is on but not much action till camps open in Aug.
    With all the hapenings in the NOJHL , we will need to raise the bar a couple of notches.

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