Opening whistles will sound in the Great North Midget Hockey League this weekend as the Soo Greyhounds, North Bay Major Trappers, New Liskeard Cubs and Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves all have home games.
It will be a tidy mix of old and new in the Great North this 2017-2018 season.
The good old includes a coach with the background and repute of North Bay’s Guy Blanchard, a man with a winning past in the Great North as well as in the Ontario Hockey League and Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
Blanchard, who just turned 58 years of age, has changed with the times and is considered to be one of the top development coaches in Ontario for midget-aged players.
He led the Trappers to a first-place regular-season finish in the Great North in 2016-2017 and helped no less than five of his minor midget-aged players become 2017 Ontario Hockey League draft picks.
Meanwhile, as Blanchard returns to coach the Trappers, North Bay will also ice a minor midget-only team in the Great North this season, one that will be coached by Mike Stockfish.
As North Bay will have two teams in the Great North this season, so too will the Soo as the new minor midget Thunderbirds have joined the major midget Greyhounds to make up what is now a nine-member league.
Jamie Henderson, a man with a winning background, will coach the Thunderbird minor midgets in their debut season in the Great North.
It speaks well of Henderson that he has been a part of Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League championship teams with the Soo Thunderbirds as an assistant coach, assistant general manager and general manager.
Meanwhile, in Kapuskasing, the Flyers have their own mix of old and new.
Glen Denney has returned to coach the Flyers after a two-year hiatus. And the young, energetic Darren Potvin has vacated his position as team president in Kapuskasing to take over as commissioner of the GNMHL.
Meanwhile, in Timmins, the Majors have undergone an overhaul from last season to this.
The Majors finished last in what was a seven-team Great North in 2016-2017 with a record of 2-32-2. But there’s a new look to the Majors staff that includes first-year head coach Brandon Perry.
Perry, who played for the Timmins midgets as a star forward about a dozen years ago, will be assisted by, among others, Derick Martin.
Of note, Perry went on to a four-year playing gig with the Queen’s University Golden Gaels while Martin is a former defenseman with the Hull Olympiques of the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League who advanced to a lengthy minor-pro career.
After its awful season from a year ago, Timmins is already off to a good start to the current campaign. The Majors won the four-team midget division championship of the Cochrane Polar Bear Classic that was held on Labour Day weekend.
Following is how the Great North will align for the 2017-2018 season.
MAJOR MIDGET DIVISION: Kapuskasing Flyers, New Liskeard Cubs, North Bay Trappers, Soo Greyhounds, Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves, Timmins Majors.
MINOR MIDGET DIVISION: North Bay Trappers, Soo Thunderbirds, Sudbury Wolves.
PHOTO: Guy Blanchard is back for another season as coach of the North Bay Trappers. (Photo by Ali Pearson.)