Thunder won’t run next season

It was expected, but now it’s official.
The Borderland Thunder will not be playing in the Superior International Junior Hockey League for the 2005-06 season, or in any league for that matter.
The announcement was made earlier Tuesday by Thunder general manager Brent Tookenay, whose eyes began to well up when he relayed the news.
“I know a lot of people want to know what’s going on, and it’s hard for me and other people involved to announce that we’re not going to operate next year,” Tookenay said from behind his desk at Fort High, where he’s a vice-principal.
The Thunder initially were supposed to give the SIJHL its decision on whether they were in or out tomorrow (June 1), but Tookenay and other members of the organization decided not to delay the inevitable.
“We were going to wait until [tomorrow] but I talked to the different people that were involved in this decision and we decided the earlier the better,” he remarked.
“They [the SIJHL] have the draft coming up and there’s no point in screwing things up for them.
“When I talked to them [SIJHL vice-president Ron Whitehead] last week, I said it wasn’t looking really good for us and it was 50/50 that we were going to be in, but leaning towards the bottom 50,” Tookenay added.
But really the announcement was a season coming. The Thunder (along with the Dryden Ice Dogs, who recently said they were going to stay with the SIJHL after all) tried to join the Manitoba Junior Hockey League—even sending in an application with a cheque for $5,000.
After the SIJHL denied their request to leave the league, the Thunder had to go through Hockey Northwestern Ontario (HNO), which also snubbed them back on Jan. 29.
A court process then began to unfold, with the Thunder and Ice Dogs (in separate proposals) saying that by not allowing them entry into the MJHL, it was inhibiting them from making a profit.
“Basically we’re a business, and they can’t tell us where we can do business,” Tookenay had said after the HNO’s decision in late January.
“We have the opportunity to go somewhere where we can make ends meet [in the MJHL] and they shouldn’t be able to hold us from going here,” he had noted.
That court case is now “at a halt”—mostly because Couchiching First Nation has decided to cut its ties with the Thunder and no longer will be the team’s owner.
“With Couchiching stopping their ownership of the team at the end of this season, that made it difficult for us because you have lawyers, but you don’t even have an owner of the team to battle with you,” Tookenay said.
That’s not to say the team didn’t go out looking for new ownership. It did, but trying to “sell the SIJHL” to the public proved to be too much of an obstacle to overcome.
“We’ve talked to a number of people and the response is, ‘SIJHL, lots of questions.’ It’s a very difficult sell,” said Tookenay.
But just because the Thunder won’t be part of the SIJHL this coming season doesn’t mean the franchise is finished. There is still a chance they could come back and join the SIJHL again (Tookenay says that will only happen if the league is able to expand).
“I don’t think it will be a problem starting up again, but I think it would be a problem dependent on which league you were in,” noted Tookenay.

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