Brent Tookenay really had no choice.
The general manager of the Borderland Thunder had phoned as many of his players as he could to relay the news that the chances of there being a team here next season were not good.
When that concern became fact last week, Tookenay gave each of them their release.
“We have given them their releases and wish all the best to them,” said Tookenay. “We’re not going to hold them back for ransom or anything like that.”
In most cases, the players had no trouble finding other teams to play for, which could be seen as a testament to the Thunder organization.
“With our showing [at the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’ showcase tournament ] last season, they know the players and they specifically asked for guys,” noted Tookenay.
“Our guys are going to do just fine over there,” he added.
In fact, most of the Thunder players will be heading to the 11-team MJHL.
Tyler Barker of Devlin, who had 13 goals and 18 assists during the regular season, as well as a goal and two assists in the playoffs, will be heading to the Winkler Flyers.
Joining Barker in Winkler will be defenceman Ryan Mayman of Kenora, who had two goals and 10 assists during the regular season, and goalie Tyler Gordon of Hudson, who sported a 16-7-3 regular-season record, with a .918 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average.
(There’s also a chance Gordon, who was named the Thunder’s rookie of the year, may be going to the Quesnel Millionaires of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League).
Another player who may be heading to Winkler is defenceman Clayton Windigo of Red Gut Bay.
A member of the Thunder since their inaugural season in 2001-02, he had six goals and eight assists during the regular season and one goal in the playoffs.
Another MJHL team that will have a few Thunder players in the lineup this coming season is the Selkirk Steelers.
Defenceman Andrew Perrault of Couchiching, who played in only 27 games last season due to a knee injury, will be on the team, along with former Muskie star Steven Sus, who had 13 goals and 10 assists during the regular season and a goal in the playoffs.
He also had been named the Thunder’s most improved player).
Defenceman David Gooch of Mantua, N.J. also will be heading to Selkirk. He had four goals and nine assists during the regular season, and was named the Thunder’s most dedicated player.
Meanwhile, defenceman Ian Lockman of Couchiching, a late addition to the team last season who had two goals and eight assists in the regular season and then a goal and an assist in the playoffs, will be heading for the Quesnel Millionaires.
Greg Beller of Rainy River will be joining the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the BCJHL. Beller had two goals and five assists in the six regular-season games he played with the Thunder and an assist in two playoff matches.
Jeremy Beller will be part of the Lake of the Woods team, which is where he played last season before arriving to the Thunder, along with his brother, Greg, late last season.
He had two goals and three assists in three regular-season games and no points in three playoff ones.
Forward Dennis Morrison of Lac La Croix, the Thunder’s most popular player who notched 17 goals and 22 assists during the regular season and then two goals and five assists in the playoffs, most likely will suit up for the Fort William North Stars of the SIJHL.
Morrison, along with Lockman, also were inaugural members of the Thunder.
Forward Scott Bridgeman of Fort Frances will be attending the University of Manitoba next season, but is not sure if he will try out for the Bisons.
Forward Josh McAndrew of Atikokan, who had 26 goals and 18 assists during the regular season and three goals and two assists in the playoffs, will be heading to New York to play at the Division III level.
He’ll be joined by Aaron Boyer of Calgary, who was the team’s leading scorer during the regular season with 21 goals and 28 assists and then added three goals and three assists in the playoffs.
Defenceman Kurt Hogard, named the Thunder’s best defenceman and most valuable player with six goals and 36 assists during the regular season, and then was the team’s leading playoff scorer with three goals and five assists, also will be playing at the Division III level in New York.
Forward Tanner Kaemingh of Emo, who had six goals and seven assists in the regular season and no points in three playoff games, has enrolled at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, where he will be taking kinesiology.
Kaemingh says he will not play hockey his first year because he doesn’t know how much of a school load he will have, but might play his second year with a Junior ‘B’ team there.
It was not known by press time where forward Andrew Dault of International Falls will be playing next season.
Brent Tookenay really had no choice.