Summer hockey talk

Randy Russon
June 25, 2018

If you are a hot bed hockey fan or, in this case, one who writes about the sport, the time of year does not seem to matter. That is, whether it is hockey season or hockey off-season, the hockey talk does not stop.

Be it June or July, the hockey topics are still there. Of that, there is no absolutely no question whatsoever.

And in the world of the ultimate fanatic that includes over-the-top, masked-marvel, Soo Greyhounds supporter Chris Sierzputowski, the looming month of August simply means it is that much closer to September and the start of another hockey season.

In the meantime, though, there is much going on with much to come. We don’t need ice on the rinks or games to be played for the hockey talk to flow like a river.

June turns to July and the hockey talk is non stop.

As in the new coach of the Soo Greyhounds and how he will follow the successful three-year trail of graduated bench boss Drew Bannister.

As in boy wonder Kyle Dubas of Sault Ste. Marie using two picks in his first draft as general manager of the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs to take a pair of Greyhounds.

As in maybe it is okay to cheer for the Maple Leafs now that Soo boy Dubas is the GM.

Or as in it doesn’t matter who the GM of the Maple Leafs is because if you can’t stand the Leafs then you can’t stand the Leafs. Like, come on, man.

Then there is the aftermath of the NHL draft and discussion that leads to OHL players who could eventually wind up becoming steals as later round picks. Names that are high on the Hockey News North list are a pair of fifth round picks — Saginaw Spirit forward Blade Jenkins, who went to the New York Islanders, and Flint Firebirds defenseman Dennis Busby, who was picked up by the Arizona Coyotes.

Then there is the Twin Soo junior A hockey chat.

As in three high-end players from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario opting to cross the St. Mary’s River to sign with the Michigan Soo Eagles of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League effective the 2018-2019 season.

The hockey talk goes on, in spite of the summer breeze.

The hockey talk goes on because hockey season never really ends.

The hockey talk goes on because some of us just do not want to let it go.

As in how good will the Greyhounds be in 2018-2019 after missing a glorious opportunity to win the 2017-2018 OHL playoff championship by somehow losing to a Hamilton Bulldogs team that had 23 fewer points than the Soo during the regular season.

As in will the Sault College Cougars of the American Collegiate Hockey Association be able to attract a solid following now that they are becoming more established as a reputable program.

As in let’s go check out a Sault College Cougars hockey game next season and see what they are all about.

The hockey talk goes beyond the boundaries of good old Sault Ste. Marie.

As in the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL is headed for glory days that a pair of Sault Ste. Marie boys, 2001 birth year forwards Nicholas Porco and Camaryn Baber, are being groomed to be a part of.

As in wouldn’t it be nice if the nearby Sudbury Wolves returned to OHL prominence and became a legitimate contender.

As in wouldn’t it be nice if the northern rival Greyhounds and Wolves actually played in the same division and same conference.

As in remember when the Greyhounds and Wolves were members of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association — which was more than 45 years ago — and the two teams often played to crowds of more than 5,000 in both the Soo and Sudbury.

And if you happen to follow Bo Murray on Twitter and Facebook, there is daily information related to OHL players and teams past and present.

A retired Canada Post worker, Murray resides in Windsor and is a long-time fan of the Spitfires. But as the man behind a fun, detailed group called the OHL Alumni, Murray isn’t just about the Spitfires as he shares daily, year-round information that pertains to history of the league and its players.

The hockey talk goes on and on from here and there and elsewhere.

As in just recently, out of nowhere, came an “it’s been a long time since we chatted” e-mail from Ron Valentine, former commissioner of the erstwhile International Jr. B Hockey League. Valentine, who used to live in Sault Ste. Marie, now resides in Hamilton.

Which led to remembering when the NOHA and IJHL boasted teams such as the Soo Indians, Thessalon Flyers and Wawa Travellers, not to mention the Chapleau Huskies and Marquette Americans.

And remembering when Jr. B games were broadcast on CJWA in Wawa, CJNR in Blind River and CKNR in Elliot Lake with the legendary likes of Paul Leonard Sr. doing the play by play.

To be sure, hockey talk seems to have a special place in the northern Ontario towns that are home to junior and midget teams.

For instance, Sault Ste. Marie is home to a bevy of junior, college and midget teams on the Ontario and Michigan sides of the St. Mary’s River.

Not only are there the OHL Greyhounds, the Jr. A Soo Thunderbirds, the Sault College Cougars and major midget and minor midget teams on the Canadian side but there are the Jr. A Soo Eagles and the Division 1, U.S. college Lake Superior State Lakers on the American side of the river.

Want to hear hockey talk in the Twin Saults? Not only is it dominant in the bars and coffee shops but one can read about hockey year round via the published words of Hockey News North and Postmedia newspapers Sault This Week and the Sault Star.

And the Sault is not just the only northern town where hockey is spoken and virtually inhaled year-round.

Write a story about the Timmins Rock juniors or the Timmins Majors midgets and the readership clicks are in the hundreds, regardless of the time of year. As hit-generating as the Timmins juniors are, the Timmins midgets are close behind and year-round at that.

And the same seems to hold true relative to most teams in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, be they from the Twin Soos, Blind River, Espanola, Rayside-Balfour, French River, Kirkland Lake, Cochrane, Hearst and aforementioned Timmins.

In fact, the mere mention of NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca seems to attract the same level of attention and comment as to when the name of OHL commissioner David Branch is spoken or written. Which is probably an indicator that both men are very good at what they do in their positions of power as junior hockey commissioners.

There is an old saying relative to some one being “all talk and no action.”

Well, in the hockey world where this writer works and lives, hockey is all talk and plenty of action day to day, week to week, month to month, regardless of the time of year.

Pull up a chair. Have a beer or a coffee. It does not matter if it is spring, summer, fall, or winter.

Hockey topics spark plenty of talk, regardless of the season.

What you think about “Summer hockey talk”

  1. Hockey now a days is a year round job, the leagues players scouts and coaches are on the go even after the regular season is done. So its good to have news or summer hockey talk on whats happening on the hockey scene for up coming season. . Good to have the summer hockey news .

  2. Nice compilation of the past ,present & future . There is something with ice for us northerners even the zamboni fumes get us excited either it be in July or March . The hockey pride in the Hwy 11 corridor is second to none from Noha Champs to northern boys being promoted to higher ranks.
    You’re right RR , early coffee chats or late night brews conversation always turn to hockey happenings.
    CHEERS !!!

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