Sault coach Jim Capy led Blind River to its first winning season in the NOJHL
It was a struggling franchise in need of coaching direction. The early years of the Blind River Beavers in what is the modern day Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League yielded very few victories for the small market franchise. To be sure, the Beavers won just 31 of 178 games over four seasons that began with their debut campaign of 2000-2001. In fact, it was not until the 2004-2005 campaign when coach Jim Capy arrived in Blind River via the Soo Thunderbirds that the Beavers had a winning season. Through its first four seasons in the NOJHL — 2000-2001, 2001-2002, 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 — Blind River was not a preferred destination for players until Beavers general manager Don Lees Jr. brought Capy aboard as coach to begin the 2004-2005 term. Capy had led the aforementioned Soo Thunderbirds to the NOJHL finals in all four seasons at the helm of his hometown team while helping no less than 16 of his players get Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association scholarships. It was Capy’s ability to combine recruiting with coaching that made him attractive to the Beavers after he parted ways with the Thunderbirds. And the then 47-year-old bench boss did not disappoint in his first season in Blind River. “Jim has brought a lot of credibility to us in terms of his contacts and the success he has had,” aforementioned Beavers general manager Don Lees Jr. told Sault This Week at the time. “Jim is a winner. He eats and breathes and sleeps hockey and we’re just so fortunate to have someone like Jim Capy as our coach.” After having posted an abysmal overall record of 31-141-6 in four seasons prior to the arrival of Capy, Blind River became an NOJHL force to be reckoned with in 2004-2005. With a fired-up Capy and even-tempered assistant coach Kevin Cain behind the bench, Blind River finished the 48-game regular season with a record of 27-18-3 and established a fierce rivalry with the big boys from the Soo. Well covered by yours truly and Sault This Week, the Beavers were all of a sudden on the NOJHL map as Capy and Cain made it work in Blind River with a combination of local and area talent as well as American players from four different states. There were two hometown Blind River boys on the Beavers – goalie Brock Lees and forward Darren Rainville. From the Sault area were goalie Kevin King, defenceman Sean O’Dell and forwards Adam Combs, Ken Reid and (heart and soul captain) Billy Schill. And blueliners Lucas Goodall and Shaun Siemers were from the nearby towns of Thessalon and Echo Bay, respectively. From elsewhere came scoring star Thomas Laplante via Ste Foy, Que. as well as a host of American-born imports that included plum defencemen Mike Bernardy, Art Clark and Jeff Wills and high-end forwards Matt Buha, Jake Erway and Jason Wiley. The Beavers first-ever winning season would end in the playoffs with a hotly-contested series loss to coach Toots Kovacs and the Thunderbirds in which the rinks in both Blind River and the Sault were packed for each and every game. All these years later, Blind River is still a big part of the NOJHL and has been enjoying unprecedented franchise success over the past four seasons under current Beavers coach-general manager Kyle Brick. But it was back in 2004-2005 when NOJHL glory first hit the gritty little hockey town of Blind River with the now iconic Capy as the bench boss.