During this COVID-19 pandemic we all realize how important sports are to our lives.
I made a decision as a child that I loved sports. I have always wanted to be a sports reporter. Today, I want to thank all the people in our sports community for all you do. I thank you for the time you spend, for being leaders, and for trying to do the right thing in teaching life lessons.
I am old enough to say I covered Norm Maciver when he played for the Burger King Kings junior hockey team. He had leadership qualities back then, strong skater, smart with the puck and a good person. He has made hockey a career on and off the ice. Now he is a seasoned NHL front office worker who has made a big move from the Chicago Blackhawks to the expansion Seattle Kraken. I am very happy for Maciver.
In that old league with the Kings were Lakehead University NorWesters, the Thunder Bay Twins and the Bay Beverage Blazers. Trust me when I say the ice surface was always full of talent.
I have to admit I am out of touch with the current junior hockey scene in Thunder Bay and area, but I see it growing with my own eyes.
My “real job” is a senior business systems analyst for the Ministry of the Solicitor General. I have worked for 36 years in corrections and this will be my last. I intend to spend my retirement taking in sporting events I love and junior Hockey will be one of those pleasures. I like what I see developing.
I want to thank every single person who is trying to bring back junior hockey to what it used to be in the days of the Thunder Bay Flyers. It can happen, so never lose hope. I like the professional approach of the Kam River Fighting Walleye, the newest member of the Superior International Junior Hockey League. I really like what they are doing.
This pandemic has slowed us all down and things are not the same. On Friday, SIJHL commissioner Darrin Nicholas said in a press release it would be unlikely to finish a complete season and playoffs with the ongoing Ontario lockdown rules. The lockdown is expected to run until early February.
Regardless what happens, sports people know when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Thank you to every person who has taken a leadership role, contributed financially and given to our sports community. I am watching from the couch and taking notes. I see you and I respect your efforts.
What I enjoy most is watching the young men I covered in sports, become men who are giving back such as Larry Busniuk of the Thunder Bay Bandits junior B team. I respect you and your family for all you have given to sport.
Fighting Walleye president Derek Geddes: you were a good goalie but you are a better man so thank you for your dedication to junior hockey. Your father Jack Geddes was always fun to be around at the rink and he would be very proud of you.
Malcolm Sutherland is a leader behind the bench in Nipigon for the Nipigon Elks of the Lakehead Junior Hockey League. I am hoping for good things for you and from you.
The other LJHL teams are the Schreiber Filane’s Falcons, the Bandits and the Northern Hawks.
The Dryden GM Ice Dogs, the Fort Frances Lakers, the Kam River Fighting Walleye, the Red Lake Miners, the Thief River Falls Norskies, the Wisconsin Lumberjacks and the Thunder Bay North Stars make up the SIJHL.
Rob DeGagne, the current North Stars coach, has always had my respect. Thank you for giving back to the game I love. I enjoyed watching you lead on the ice, but I love watching you lead as a coach.
No one is meant to be left out of this story. This is a sign of more thank you notes to come and for the teams to have a spark to carry on during tough times.
To the Filane family in Schreiber, you have always supported sport from boxing to hockey and beyond. You were there when junior hockey, included the Thunder Bay Hornets. When this pandemic is finally over, I am definitely visiting your fine town and your restaurant. Thank you for all you do.
These groups and people have been part of my life for a long time and I will never forget the good times during the hard times.
Johan Vass is a Thunder Bay-based writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.