Growing pains

As Mark Twain would have put it, rumours of the demise of the Fort Frances Lakers are greatly exaggerated.
The board of directors and fan club made it crystal clear yesterday that the team is here to stay—this season and for seasons to come. While acknowledging that getting the fledgling Junior ‘A’ squad up and running has been an uphill venture, a “cohesive plan of action” is to be developed at a meeting tonight at Flinders Place to move the non-profit, community-owned franchise forward.
There’s no question the Lakers have struggled so far this season, currently sitting in the basement of the five-team SIJHL with a 5-11-3 record heading into tonight’s game against the second-place Ice Dogs up in Dryden. Particularly vexing is the team’s inexplicably poor showing on home ice—just one win in 11 tries in what should be the friendly confines of the Ice For Kids Arena.
That’s certainly a plausible reason why attendance has been dropping steadily of late, particularly given the tough economic times that’s likely forced local hockey fans to keep a tight rein on their spending when so many other options are available, including both Muskie teams and the new Thunderhawks senior men’s squad.
There’s also no question, however, that having a local Junior ‘A’ team is a benefit to the community. It means revenue for the Civic Centre’s coffers through ice rental and concessions, as well as to local businesses when visiting teams come to town. And perhaps, down the road, there’s the opportunity to host the regional championship (Dudley Hewitt Cup) or even the national showdown (RBC Cup).
And it’s a chance for more locals to keep playing the game they love here at home.
The Lakers’ players, meanwhile, much like their predecessors with the Jr. Sabres and Borderland Thunder, have been very community-minded, serving as role models through the local minor hockey association and in the schools, as well as helping out with various events and fundraisers.
The coaches, board of directors, and fan club deserve kudos for icing a team in such a short period of time after the Jr. Sabres folded. Sure, it’s off to a slow start but could anything else really have been expected given the team didn’t have any players a scant three weeks before their season-opener?
What’s needed is seeing them through these growing pains in hopes of future success.