It is an optimistic sign. Not a definitive one, perhaps.
But there is definitely a Bird sighting on the horizon, as in a planned, first flap of the wings.
To be sure, we see Birds on ice in the foreseeable future.
As in a tryout camp for the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
At any rate, here we go with the details.
Thunderbirds general manager Trev Zachary has confirmed dates for an upcoming tryout camp for the Soo’s NOJHL team.
Zachary and the Thunderbirds have ice booked for Aug. 14, 15 and 16 — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — at John Rhodes Community Centre that will include morning and evening sessions of skills, drills and controlled scrimmages.
The ice time, tryout sessions are open to players born in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. Cost to register is $150 per player.
For further information, contact Zachary via email@example.com
And the registration form is available at www.soothunderbirds.com under CAMPS.
Sault Ste. Marie residents Brad Boyer and Chad Vresk have joined the scouting staff of the Espanola Express of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, Sault This Week has confirmed.
The 54-year-old Boyer and the 46-year-old Vresk have been an NOJHL scouting tandem since 2006 when they worked for the Blind River Beavers.
Since then, Boyer and Vresk have had two separate scouting gigs with the Cochrane Crunch and were part of its 2018 NOJHL championship team. They also had a second go-round with Blind River and were also involved with a championship team with the erstwhile Elliot Lake Bobcats of the Greater Metro Jr. Hockey League.
The two close friends have been a scouting duo every year except the 2016-2017 season when Boyer scouted for the NOJHL champion Soo Thunderbirds.
Now, in their new post with Espanola as Sault-based scouts for Northern Ontario, Boyer and Vresk will report to Express president and general manager Jason Rapcewicz.
FREE AGENT COACH
One of the very best Junior A hockey coaches in Ontario is on the market.
Marc Lafleur and the Hearst Lumberjacks have parted ways, just over a year after he led what was a second-year franchise to the 2018-2019 NOJHL championship.
The soon-to-be 45-year-old Lafleur, who is a Hearst product, also had prior championship success as an NOJHL coach and general manager with the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.
A teacher by trade with a master’s degree in education, Lafleur also coached in the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League, as an assistant with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. And he played the game at the Division 1, American college level at Bemidji State University.
Officially, Lafleur is departing Hearst and the NOJHL to be with his wife and their two kids, who live in Almonte, Ont., which is just outside Ottawa. Lafleur’s wife and her family have roots in the Almonte area.
Lafleur told Sault This Week he wants to stay in the game as long as he can be reasonably close to his wife and kids.
“I can handle an eight-hour drive but not an eleven-hour drive,” he relayed. (Almonte is about an 11-hour drive from Hearst.)
To be sure, the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on Junior A hockey and its financial picture undoubtedly played a role in the NOJHL Lumberjacks moving on from Lafleur as a full-time coach and general manager.
Meanwhile, as Lafleur departs Hearst as the Lumberjacks coach and general manager, the NOJHL team has named 29-year-old Marc-Alain Begin as its new bench boss.
Begin was Lafleur’s assistant in Hearst the past three NOJHL seasons. Begin is also a former NOJHL scoring star with the erstwhile Abitibi Eskimos.
ICE AT THE RHODES
The City of Sault Ste. Marie has implemented a number of modifications for the two arenas that are housed within John Rhodes Community Centre. The Rhodes Centre is located in the Sault’s east end on the grounds of Queen Elizabeth Park.
The modifications are part of the Ontario provincial government’s Stage 3 reopening plan.
Stage 3 implementation will continue to support the physical distancing efforts recommended by Algoma Public Health and provincial and federal governments.
— Amateur and recreational sports leagues may resume so long as they do not allow prolonged or deliberate physical contact between players or if they have modifications to avoid physical contact between players.
— Participants will be limited to a maximum of 50 individuals per ice surface.
— Spectators at all sporting events will be subject to gathering limits of 50 people per arena. Physical distancing measures with assigned and designated seating will be implemented.
— Exhibition games are permitted in accordance with social distancing requirements.
— Leagues must contain no more than 50 participants total. If participants in a league exceed 50, the league may divide into smaller groups of no more than 50. Players are not permitted to play against athletes outside of their league or group.
— Locker rooms, change rooms, showers and clubhouses in the facility will open. Two change rooms per team will be used to provide further distancing support. Enhanced cleaning measures will take place following each use of change rooms.
— City employees and members of the public who enter or remain in a city facility must wear a mask or face covering. Exceptions include children under the age of two, those with respiratory or medical conditions that make it difficult to wear a mask or those who have difficulty putting a mask on themselves. Athletes participating in on-ice activities are not required to wear a mask. Refer to on-site signage and instructions.
“Various measures continue to be in place to align with recommended social distancing guidelines,” relayed Brent Lamming, who is the city’s director of community services.
“Rink ambassadors continue to provide an added level of safety to educate the public and ensure compliance of the guidelines. We encourage responsible use of the facilities within the guidelines provided,” Lamming added.
ACROSS THE POND
Michigan Soo Eagles of the NOJHL will hold their main tryout camp in a couple of weeks.
Eagles general manager Bruno Bragagnolo has confirmed the mid-August main camp dates and details.
The Eagles are one of 11 teams in the NOJHL and its lone American entry.
With a good reputation as a franchise that develops its players and provides a first rate environment, the Eagles are coming off a 2019-2020 season in which they posted a record of 30-21-5.
The 65 points that the Eagles earned was good for fourth place in the NOJHL’s West Division and just two points back of the third place Soo Thunderbirds. The Eagles then swept the fifth place Espanola Express in two straight games in the preliminary round of the playoffs before the COVID-19 pandemic put an abrupt end to the season.
Off the ice, the Eagles are actively involved in the Michigan Soo community. And they have received considerable recognition for their volunteer work within the community.
Besides the veteran Bragagnolo as their long-time general manager of 10 years, the Eagles feature the reputable Doug Laprade as their head coach.
The 51-year-old Laprade is a former national championship player and assistant coach from his days with the Lake Superior State University Lakers.
Known as a player’s coach, Laprade has spent the past two seasons as the Eagles bench boss.
At any rate, the Eagles main camp is slated for Aug. 12-14 at Big Bear Arena in the Michigan Sault.
For player registration, go to www.sooeagles.net or call general manager Bruno Bragagnolo via 847-921-4543 or head coach Doug Laprade at 906-322-0748.
It is an optimistic sign. Not a definitive one, perhaps.