Positive step

The future suddenly looks much brighter for the Superior International Junior Hockey League following Monday’s decision by USA Hockey to reverse its earlier ruling and allow two American teams to join the loop after all.
And that, in turn, bodes well for the survival of Junior ‘A’ hockey here.
The folding of the K&A Wolverines of Thunder Bay this past spring left the SIJHL facing the dismal prospect of running with just four teams—the Fort Frances Lakers, Fort William North Stars, Dryden Ice Dogs, and Sioux Lookout Flyers—for the 2010-11 season, which could well have been the final nail in the coffin for a league that’s struggled to stay afloat since its inception nine years ago thanks to lacklustre attendance and the loss of several franchises, including a pair here in the Borderland Thunder and then the Jr. Sabres.
With the addition of the Duluth Clydesdales and Spooner, Wis.-based Wilderness, local fans will be treated to a wider variety of teams visiting the Ice For Kids Arena and, hopefully, the development of heated rivalries like we see whenever our Fort High Muskies clash with U.S. squads.
The logic is simple: a strong league will attract high-quality players, which means better action on the ice, which translates into more fans in the stands, which leaves the league on even more solid footing and open to further expansion, which attracts higher-quality players, and so on.
You get the picture.
Expansion alone doesn’t guarantee rosy days ahead for the Lakers, of course. The second-year squad still has to ice a quality product, as well as come up with creative promotions to get fans out to the games. But given how quickly the community rallied together to even form the team last summer after the abrupt departure of the Jr. Sabres, coupled with the Lakers’ inspiring inaugural playoff run, a good start has been made.
Finally putting the “International” in the SIJHL is the next positive step towards ensuring Junior ‘A’ hockey is here for the long haul.