As it stands now, the Fort Frances Thunderhawks are down one obstacle to appearing at the Allan Cup next season.
By that same token, they also are down one nearby exhibition opponent.
Hockey Northwestern Ontario general manager John Pucci confirmed the Thunder Bay Twins have folded, which, in one sense, is a boon for the T’hawks, especially going into the 2010-11 season.
Team general manager Dean Bruyere pointed out that with Kenora scheduled to host the Allan Cup next year, the Thistles already are guaranteed a spot in the tournament, meaning the T’hawks could earn an automatic berth to the provincial senior championship—the Renwick Cup—if no other challengers from the region step up to the plate.
Still, Bruyere noted losing a team in Thunder Bay makes scheduling more difficult since Kenora is the only team remaining in the region and squads from Manitoba operate on a limited schedule.
“Now with Thunder Bay gone, that kind of hurts us, and then Manitoba doesn’t start anything ’til after Christmas,” Bruyere said.
Because of those difficulties, the T’hawks are considering a later start to the 2010-11 season.
“We’re not going to start playing probably until December now,” Bruyere remarked. “Last year, we started October or November.
“I don’t think we’re going to go that early. . . . It’s too costly, and it’s hard to find teams to boot,” he reasoned.
“We’ll start skating in the middle of November, and then try to get some games in in the middle of November, or December,” Bruyere noted.
“And then in January or February, get ready to play in the big match [Renwick Cup].”
Bruyere also said the T’hawks may take their act across the border. He is looking into snapping up some practice ice across the river—and the team also is trying to secure a pair of games over in the Falls.
“They’re going to try to fit us in in the fall so we can play two games in the Bronco Arena, for those six or seven American lads we have,” Bruyere said.
“I’d like to showcase them over there to their fans,” he explained.
Getting earlier ice time for practice is a priority for the T’hawks given many of last year’s practice times tended to come later on in the evening.
“I was hoping that we could get an earlier time slot for practice [in Fort Frances], and if we can’t get an earlier time, I’m going to look at Kerry Park [Arena] in the Falls to at least get a 9 p.m. start so the guys who are working can go out and skate and then be home at a decent hour.
“It was crazy. It was getting late at night,” he added.
“It’s hard for working guys if you have to get up for work the next morning.”
While nothing is confirmed roster-wise, Bruyere said he has a line on a couple of defencemen and an NCAA Div. III goalie.
He added that newly-minted assistant general manager Travis Green also is in the process of contacting players to find out their plans for the coming year.
“There’s nothing set up yet,” Bruyere stressed. “I’ve given Travis Green the set of numbers and e-mails that I have had, and I asked him, ‘Your first responsibility is to contact everybody.’
“I want to meet with [coaches] Randy White and Larry Beck and Travis and myself, and go over and set up our rosters,” he added.