Possible new team delays SIJHL draft

The Superior International Junior Hockey League was scheduled to hold its first-ever draft Wednesday night in Thunder Bay, but it was postponed over word a new team might join.
“We had decided on the number of rounds we were going to have, we knew the format we were going to use, and we decided on the 50-man protected list and the pecking order,” SIJHL vice-president Ron Whitehead said Thursday morning.
“And just when we were about ready to get going to pick names, we were surprised to find that there’s a possibility of a new team.”
“They approached us at the meeting and they want a couple of days to finalize their plans, and that’s where we are,” noted Whitehead.
“So we put a hold on the draft meeting for a couple of days . . . but this is worth waiting for because it’s only a couple of days.
This news comes on the heels of the local Borderland Thunder’s decision earlier this week to not ice a team in the SIJHL for the 2005-06 season.
But the Thunder have said the team might come back if the SIJHL expands.
Whitehead declined to comment which city had approached the SIJHL about joining, but did say it was a group the league had never talked to before about expansion.
“The draft was to be held last night [Wednesday] at 7 p.m. and then this city came in that was definitely interested, so we decided in the best interest of the league to hold off on the draft for a couple of days and wait to see what happens there,” noted Gary Cook, general manager of the Fort William First Nation North Stars.
Cook also revealed there have been talks with the Allan Cup-winning Thunder Bay Bombers and the possibility the senior team could play a partial schedule with the SIJHL next season.
Confederation College’s hockey team also has talked about playing a partial schedule with the SIJHL.
“We’ve talked to the senior Bombers team to play a partial schedule and that’s stuff that’s being worked on,” Cook noted Thursday morning.
“We’re just talking about it,” he stressed. “And Thunder Bay has a college team so we’ve been talking to them, as well, where they could play a couple of games with a partial schedule.”
Meanwhile, reaction to the Thunder’s decision to pull out of the SIJHL was predictable.
“It’s a little tough on the league and it’s not very good to just have a four-team league,” Bill MacLaurin, owner of the K&A Variety Golden Hawks, said Wednesday.
“You’ll get tired of playing the other teams and Fort Frances was always a great town to go and play hockey team,” he noted. “It’s just sad that they couldn’t get something together to keep the team there.”
None of the other teams could be reached for comment by press time Thursday. But Whitehead expressed he was “extremely disappointed” with the announcement.
“They’ve been an original charter member, they were probably the first team to put their hand [up] and were a great team and have done well in this league,” he added.
“It’s sad to lose any team, but particularly one that’s carried themselves as well as they have,” Whitehead said.