Idea of Muskie jr. varsity hockey team still ‘on the backburner’

In theory, everything sounds like a good idea, but the implementing of those ideas requires work and commitment.
The idea of having a Muskie junior varsity team is no different.
There was talk last year of possibly having a junior varsity team in place for this season, but that won’t be the case said Muskie head coach, Shane Bliss.
“At the end of last season, I talked to Lynn Kellar [who was the Fort Frances minor hockey league’s president and has since moved to a position with Northwestern Ontario Hockey] and at the time we had decided that both sides weren’t quite comfortable getting an agreement done yet,” Bliss said.
But that’s not to suggest the idea has fizzled away entirely.
“It’s something that isn’t impossible, and is on the backburner,” says Bliss.
If a junior varsity team would be created it would have two faces with the other face being the Midget ‘AA’ Canadians hockey team, and that’s something Canadians head coach, Dave Egan, is making sure of.
Egan, who was a standout Muskie hockey player during his playing days, believes having a junior varsity team is an excellent idea—as long as the team would be able to keep its identity as a Midget team.
“It’s good to have it, but I don’t think we can just stand alone as a JV team, because I don’t think it’s going to offer enough games to the players,” Egan says.
One of the main reasons for creating such a team is because of the drop in numbers that has been seen in the Midget level in Fort Frances’ minor hockey scene.
Some players that don’t make the Muskies believe there is no other place for them to play “meaningful and competitive” hockey and putting forward such a team would give them reason to play for the Midget team.
“They were looking for a way to keep kids involved and make it a meaningful season,” says Bliss.
And the team wouldn’t just be good for the players; it would be beneficial to the Muskie program as well.
Most, if not all, of the American high school hockey teams have junior varsity teams in place from which they feed from and having a such a feeder team would give Bliss and his coaching staff a bath of options.
“For the Muskies it would be great, because we wouldn’t have to carry such a big bench,” Bliss noted.
“And if the coaches were on the same page then both teams could be practicing the same things so that if someone got called up due to injury or academic ineligibility then they would fit right in.
“Nothing would be new to them, it would just be with a different bunch of guys,” Bliss said.
The idea of a junior varsity team spurred a few years ago when the Canadians were having difficulties finding consistent games against motivating competition. They were signed on to play with Manitoba’s Midget ‘AA’ league, but that didn’t happen due to the issue of travel Egan says.
“Basically they didn’t want to travel—they didn’t want to come here,” he says.
“Really, what I think happened is they saw our strength and saw we were tougher than them and they basically backed off. I guess if we would’ve came in with a weak team we would’ve been more accepted.”
Egan is shooting to have 60 games lined up for the Canadians, who will only have one returning player due to age restrictions, and those games will come through exhibitions and tournaments.
And though both sides are starting to realize just how hard it its to implement an idea that sounded so good in theory, the idea is far from being kicked to the curb.
“It’s too late for this year, but there’s still a possibility that something can be done. Some groundwork has been laid, and it wouldn’t be hard to get talks going again,” Bliss said.
Bliss paused and contemplated the last part he had just said and then joked, “It sounds like we’re going through NHL talks or something.”

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