Sad ending

It’s no secret the Borderland Thunder have been trying to jump ship from the Superior International Junior Hockey League to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League for some time.
Whispers that the local Junior ‘A’ squad was on financial thin ice have been around even longer.
As such, yesterday’s announcement that the Thunder would not ice a team in the SIJHL for the 2005-06 season came as no real shock. But that doesn’t soften the blow, nor does it answer the question of what went wrong.
The Thunder took to the ice with much fanfare in the fall of 2001—and quickly generated a solid fan base that first season as the squad went 28-11-9 under head coach Wayne Strachan to claim first place during the regular season before losing a thrilling series to the Dryden Ice Dogs in the inaugural SIJHL final.
The following season, under new head coach Dave Allison, the Thunder went 33-12-5-2 en route to capturing both the regular-season title and then the league crown before hosting the Dudley Hewitt Cup in April, 2003.
The problem wasn’t on the ice, at least from the Thunder’s perspective, given the team’s overall success during its four-year stint. But the quality of the action began to suffer due to the lack of widespread competition in the five-team SIJHL—perhaps keeping fans away.
The ugly brawl at the end of a game here between the Thunder and the Dryden Ice Dogs earlier this spring did nothing to enhance the league’s image.
But while the SIJHL is a big reason for the Thunder’s demise, it doesn’t shoulder all of the blame. The decision to replace Mr. Strachan with Mr. Allison ruffled some feathers. Stacking the team—at the expense of local players—to make a run for the Dudley Hewitt Cup as the host squad didn’t sit well with many.
And maybe the team bit off more than it could chew financially by hosting the Dudley Hewitt Cup in just its second year of existence.
In fact, the reasons for the Thunder’s plight are many. But the bottom line is the Fort Frances area is without a major Junior ‘A’ team, and that’s sad for a place touted as such a hockey town.

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