Soo Thunderbirds are just one of a number of teams in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League who have recently hit the ice ahead of the upcoming season.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, no one can say with any degree of certainty when the 2020-2021 NOJHL season will begin, even in the form of exhibition matches.
Still, the majority of teams in the 11-member NOJHL have been holding non contact skill and drill sessions as health and safety precautions are being observed relative to COVID-19.
In Sault Ste. Marie, the Thunderbirds have been holding daily afternoon skills and conditioning practices under the watchful eyes of new head coach Denny Lambert and assistant coaches Gary Roach, Micky Sartoretto, Jeremy Stevenson and Aidan Wright.
The 50-year old Lambert played three Ontario Hockey League seasons with the Soo Greyhounds and later coached them for eight years, both as an assistant under Craig Hartsburg and as the head master.
In between playing for and coaching the Greyhounds, Lambert skated in more than 500 National Hockey League games as a journeyman left winger. A model for perseverance and for never giving up on his hockey dreams, Lambert reached the top despite never being drafted into the OHL or the NHL.
Now, Lambert takes over a Thunderbirds team that is coming off of three straight winning seasons under head coach John Parco, who has since taken a high ranking executive job with the Italian Ice Hockey Federation.
Meanwhile, this edition of the Thundedrbirds still has roster openings as Lambert and general manager Trev Zachary continue to look at potential additions to the lineup of the Soo’s NOJHL team.
Notably, of the players who have signed to play with the Thunderbirds for the upcoming season, no less than 11 of them are local products.
They are, forwards Michael Chaffay, Tyson Doucette, Parker Morgan, Avery Rebek, Kurtis Rogers, Brock Santa Maria, Cooper Smyl, Caleb Wood and Ty Zachary and defensemen Kaden Dundas and Connor Toms.