It was a dozen years ago at this time that the erstwhile Soo Indians of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League made a surprising coaching change.
The shady, maverick, New York-based owner of the Indians, Charles Perdicaro, decided to make a coaching switch despite the fact that at the time, the Michigan Soo squad was in third place in what was then a seven-team NOJHL.
Citing philosophical differences with coach/general manager Jim Capy, Perdicaro dismissed the Indians bench boss despite the fact that he was popular with his players.
To replace Capy, Perdicaro held a clandestine, cloak and dagger style meeting in a downtown Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario eatery and brought aboard Kevin Cain to fill the dual role of coach and GM of the Indians.
To be sure, it was a bit of an awkward scene as not only were Capy and Cain both residents of the Canadian Soo, they had previously coached together in the NOJHL with the Blind River Beavers and were co-workers at Canada Post.
To his credit, Cain was able to win over the Indians dressing room and managed to band together a rag-tag crew of American-born players from six different states to go on and finish first in the standings and then win the NOJHL playoff championship.
Still, the Indians became a one-hit wonder of a franchise that was assembled just before the 2006-2007 NOJHL campaign started and folded soon after the season ended. As for the owner, Perdicaro’s last known address was somewhere in East Rockaway, New York and as far as hockey goes, the self-employed land developer no longer has a formal association with the game.
Any way, as noted, the Indians somehow came together that 2006-2007 season and eventually went on to represent the NOJHL at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, Central Canada Jr. Hockey Tournament that was held in Iroquois Falls, Ont.
To be sure, Indians overcame all odds that 2006-2007 season and they hold a rightful and delightful place in the NOJHL history books as league champions.
As the 21 players on the Michigan-based Indians were all American, their three coaches were all Canadians who lived and worked on the Ontario side of the International Bridge.
Ah yes, the Indians of 2006-2007 were quite the outfit led by aforementioned coach-general manager Kevin Cain and his assistants, Al DiPasquo and Warren LaVoy.
I covered the Indians for Sault This Week all of that season, all the way to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup playdowns that were held at Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls.
A collection of retreads they were, unlikely champions who bested teams of equal and better assembly en route to winning the NOJHL crown.
There were no real stars on that Indians team, though they had two high-end goalies who rotated and a third who was almost as good.
Brennan Poderzay and Elliott Hogue were the main men in the nets and Jake Rosenthal was the capable third guy who backed up the one-two tandem. All three went on to tend goal at the Division 3, National Collegiate Athletic Association level.
As for Cain, who went on to win three more NOJHL championships as general manager of the Soo Thunderbirds, he has fond memories of that title-winning Indians team of 2006-2007.
“That was a high-maintenance team, that’s for sure,” Cain recalled with a laugh.
“Having said that, they were a really tight-knit team. I think about them as individuals and as a team a lot and when I do, it’s with a smile on my face,” added Cain, who is still in the business as the owner and operator of Cain Hockey Management.
Looking back, the Indians finished in first place that 2006-2007 season with a record of 31-15-2 and after a first-round playoff bye, ousted the North Bay Skyhawks and Sudbury Jr. Wolves to win the NOJHL title and earn the right to represent the league at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup.
At the four-team DHC with the host Abitibi Eskimos, the Superior International Jr. Hockey League champion Schreiber Diesels and the Ontario Jr. Hockey League champion Aurora Tigers, the Indians came up short.
But while the Indians as a franchise departed the Michigan Soo almost as quickly as they arrived, the team and its players remain one for the ages.
From the goaltending trio of Poderzay, Hogue and Rosenthal to defencemen J.D. King, Nick Novak, Austin Brown, Jake Russell, Peter Landem and Sean Reid to forwards Shane Bailey, Sam Yearsley, James Ciotti, Nick Zilka, Justin Maciuk, Chris Cooper, Isaac Viau, Mike Connolly, Joe Larson, Ky Moje, Scott Pulak and Sean Farley to coaches Cain, DiPasquo and LaVoy, the Indians remain improbable champions of the 2006-2007 season.
PHOTO: Soo Indians game-star goalie Brennan Poderzay, at the 2007 Dudley-Hewitt Cup, Central Canada Jr. Hockey Tournament that was held at Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls, Ont. (Photo by Brian Holmberg.)