Pivotal days for the SIJHL

While most of the hockey world is riveted on the ongoing saga with the Atlanta Thrashers’ franchise and their possible move to Winnipeg, there is another franchise situation that could have a major impact on the SIJHL.
The future of the Sioux Lookout Flyers’ organization all will come down to what happens next Tuesday night (May 31) as the team holds its annual general meeting, following a public meeting last Tuesday to determine the future of Junior ‘A’ hockey there.
During that meeting, it was noted that while the third-year franchise broke even this past season, it still was in debt—largely from its first season of operation in 2008/09.
It was also mentioned during the meeting that the team’s entire board of directors will be resigning come next Tuesday evening, and so new leadership is needed.
However, it was stated during the meeting that although the Flyers need new leadership, the organizational infrastructure to run a Junior ‘A’ team in Sioux Lookout remains in place.
This isn’t the first time the Flyers have run into a situation like this. Back in 2008, the ownership pulled the plug on the franchise just 16 games into the campaign and it was kept alive following a community meeting.
After that inauspicious inaugural campaign, the Flyers made it to semi-finals in the 2010 playoffs before dropping to fifth in the standings this past season. But not before notching their first-ever playoff win over the Thunder Bay North Stars in the quarter-finals.
Besides the obvious disappointment for the fans in Sioux Lookout if their team bit the dust, it also would lead to another issue the SIJHL will have to overcome as their membership again would drop to five teams.
Other than the two charter members in the North Stars and Dryden Ice Dogs, it has been a revolving door for other franchises in the SIJHL over the last few seasons, with the Borderland Thunder, Fort Frances Jr. Sabres, Marathon Renegades, Schreiber Diesels, and three teams in Thunder Bay all going the way of the dodo bird.
Despite recent franchises such as the Fort Frances Lakers, the Duluth Clydesdales, and the 2011 champion Wisconsin Wilderness coming into the fold and making the league stronger as a result, to have the SIJHL drop down to five teams certainly would not be a good thing.
That said, the issue of teams folding up shop isn’t immune to the SIJHL as Junior ‘A’ hockey leagues throughout the province deal with this situation nearly every year.
Whether it be the NOJHL, the OJHL or even the “outlaw” GMHL, there seemingly is always a team that is being relocated or one that ceases operations during the off-season, especially those that are farther back in the standings and may not be receiving the fan support they need.
It’ll be interesting to see what transpires over the next few days in Sioux Lookout. But for the sake of the SIJHL, let’s hope the Flyers still will be around when the puck drops this fall.
• • •
Elsewhere in the SIJHL, teams already are beginning to make plans for their upcoming campaigns, with two announcing their summer camps and one team making a change in their general manager position.
The second-year Duluth Clydesdales will be hosting an open camp in Blaine, Mn. from June 17-19 while the Fort Frances Lakers will hold their summer identification camp July 15-17 at Bronco Arena over in International Falls.
Meanwhile, the Dryden Ice Dogs announced they not only had re-signed head coach Clint Mylymok for the 2011/12 season, but that he’ll also be taking over the role of general manager for the perennial SIJHL front-runners.
In two seasons behind the bench, Mylymok has posted a 72-29-7 record and led his team to the Bill Salonen Cup in each season, only to lose to the Thunder Bay North Stars and the Wisconsin Wilderness, respectively.

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