EDITOR’S NOTE: The following column by Jesse Cybolsky first appeared in the Iroquois Falls Enterprise. It is posted here on Hockey News North with the written permission of The Enterprise.
Hockey has always been in our blood—hockey and paper—and in what has seemed like a quick whirlwind of time, Iroquois Falls has lost both.
Our main industry and our top hockey team, the Eskimos, are gone. Those two things, hockey and paper, were the very things that brought this town together in the first place — and losing both has hurt.
Although for years there were whispers of the mill closing, many of us still couldn’t believe it would happen, but, in the end, it did.
The doom-and-gloom apocalypse scenario where we lost our main industry did in fact come to be.
This had a domino effect that, combined with what was, in retrospect, an outdated team business model, toppled our then Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League hockey club, the Eskimos.
We had the numbers, people still filled the stands at Jus Jordan Arena, aka The Igloo. Hockey was still alive, but the team died.
Among the issues on the financial side, the team was still paying for the players to play hockey. Teams can’t afford that now, and footing the bill was an honoured tradition that the Eskimos had held on to too long. They were in debt and sold to Timmins, who took over the team, which is now the Rock.
Unfortunately for the arena and our town, the next owner that came in had very little interest in a long-term community commitment. Despite the hard efforts of many volunteers, the town was forced to lose another team. Although it was nice to see a team land in Hearst, it was a very sad situation for us.
But, we’re still here.
The mass exodus and plummeting property values never really came to be. People love this town, and although we don’t currently have a large corporate employer right down the street, the commute to one of the many mines in the area, or even to Timmins, really isn’t that bad.
The fact is, Iroquois Falls isn’t going anywhere, not today, not tomorrow. Now, as we regain our footing in this quasi sort of post-industrial Iroquois Falls, it’s time to take hockey back, and the Boost our Igloo Club is doing just that.
The Boost our Igloo Club is working hard to get another NOJHL team back into Iroquois Falls. They’ve been paving the way to getting the highest level of hockey in the area back in our arena, where it belongs. They’ve been tirelessly contacting any interested parties and doing what they can to help get hockey back in town, and they’ve made progress.
It’s time for Iroquois Falls to flex.
We need to come together and show that we still have the interest that we did when we last had a team. The club needs to sell pre-season tickets to show that the interest exists in the community.
For a $25 pre-season ticket, you can help the Boost Our Igloo Club show your interest in a hockey team. Pre-season tickets are like a “pre-order” for a season ticket to the next big hockey team coming to town.
This isn’t a shot in the dark — the club does have interested parties, but no one is going to invest in Iroquois Falls after recently losing a team without doing their homework to make sure it will work.
Should the worst happen and no NOJHL team ever comes to town, then at that time the $25 could be refunded or would be donated to a local sports group that is using the Jus Jordan Arena such as ringette or minor hockey.
The club feels that this is our town’s chance to again breathe some life into the hockey scene in Iroquois Falls.
Just imagine the fun-filled rivalries spurred by having Iroquois Falls, Timmins, Cochrane, Hearst and Kirkland Lake all in the same league. It would be so much fun.
If you’re interested, the team is selling tickets at Rick’s Hi-Fi, Robichaud Insurance, Rosalie’s Restaurant, Lakeside Studio and on its website, www.boostourigloo.com.