Scout local. Stay local. Play local.
The current operators have got it down pat.
Most recently, it was confirmed that Tyson Doucette, a 2004 birth year forward, is moving up from the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Midget Hockey League to the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
The 5-foot-8, 140 pound Doucette had modest totals with the Soo midgets in 2019-2020, totaling 13 points from two goals and 11 assists in 24 regular season games.
“Tyson has proven to us over the summer that he is ready to make the jump from midget to junior,” relayed Thunderbirds general manager Trev Zachary.
“His 200 foot game and his hockey IQ, including good on ice habits and decision making, are solid attributes that will contribute to his continued success,” Zachary added in further summation of Doucette.
Doucette is just the latest local lad to sign up with the Thunderbirds as part of a wave of homegrown talent on board with the Soo’s NOJHL squad, a nice sign that has not been seen since Pat Egan was team president about 10 years ago.
In fact, after Egan, when Albert Giommi took over as president of the Thunderbirds, it was almost as if the team became Giommi’s own personal ego trip.
But now, with Zachary as the GM and Darren Smyl as president, the Thunderbirds have returned to the local flavour ahead of the upcoming NOJHL season.
Just recently, Parker Morgan, a 2000 birth year forward, and Kaden Dundas, a defenseman with a 2003 birth date, signed up to play for the Soo’s NOJHL team.
Morgan played the past two seasons for the Sault College Cougars of the American Collegiate Hockey Association where he totaled 16 goals, 20 assists, 36 points in 56 games.
Aforementioned Thunderbirds general manager Trev Zachary noted that Morgan “will bring toughness, skill and leadership to our hockey club. He has clearly learned the game under the tutelage of (coach) Mike Hall at Sault College.”
Dundas, on the other hand, is moving up to the Thunderbirds and the NOJHL from the Korah Colts high school hockey program.
“Kaden is an excellent skater and a more confident d-man who has benefited over the last two years playing at Korah for coach Greg Arbour,” Zachary said of Dundas.
And just before Doucette, Morgan and Dundas landed in the Bird house, Caleb Wood crossed the International Bridge from the Soo Eagles to the Thunderbirds via NOJHL trade.
Also hailing from Soo, Ontario, Wood — who has a 2000 birth date — played the past two NOJHL seasons with the Eagles.
In total, Wood played in 111 NOJHL games for the Eagles and was a productive performer.
Regular season and playoffs included, Wood netted 39 goals, 35 assists, 74 games during his two terms with the Eagles.
As for no less than seven other locals who earlier in the off season committed to the Thunderbirds for the upcoming campaign, four are returning veterans and the other three are incoming rookies.
Better than average, seasoned skaters are forwards Avery Rebek, Cooper Smyl, Brock Santa Maria and Kurtis Rogers.
Local newcomers to the Bird house are forwards Michael Chaffay and Ty Zachary and defenseman Connor Toms.
Rebek netted 15 goals, 27 assists, 42 points for the Thunderbirds in 2019-2020.
Next up, Smyl produced 16-15-31 totals, Santa Maria came through with 7-12-19 statistics and Rogers chipped in with 11-3-14 numbers.
Rebek has a 2000 birth date, Rogers was born in 2001, while Smyl and Santa Maria both have 2002 birth dates.
As for Chaffay and Zachary, they both spent the 2019-2020 season with the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Midget Hockey League and were among their top point producers.
Chaffay was second on the Jr. Greyhounds and fifth in league scoring in 2019-2020 with 34 goals, 19 assists, 53 points.
And Zachary was fourth on the Jr. Greyhounds scoring chart and 15th in league scoring in 2019-2020 with 11 goals, 28 assists, 39 points.
Both have 2002 birth dates.
Meanwhile, one way or another, Toms will be remaining at home to play junior hockey this season.
If the 2004 birth year defenseman does not make the roster of the Soo Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League, he will man the blue line for Thunderbirds.
Toms was a third round pick, 44th overall, by the Greyhounds at the 2020 OHL priority selections draft. He netted nine goals, 17 assists, 26 points in 38 regular season games for the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Midget Hockey League in 2019-2020.
All in all, love the local look.
As for a new look, all local coaching staff for the 2020-2021 season, its members are well known and reputable.
Denny Lambert will be the Thunderbirds head coach with Jeremy Stevenson, Gary Roach, Micky Sartoretto and Aidan Wright on staff as assistants.
The change in direction came after John Parco stepped down as head coach of the Thunderbirds after three successive winning seasons at the helm of the NOJHL team. Parco has since accepted an executive position with the Italian Ice Hockey Federation.
As for Parco’s replacement, Lambert heads to the Thunderbirds and the NOJHL with a deep hockey history.
The 50-year old Lambert played three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League as a fearless left winger who went on to play in more than 500 National Hockey League games, including playoffs.
Lambert’s coaching experience includes eight seasons in the OHL with the Greyhounds — three as head coach. He also coached the Batchewana Attack of the erstwhile Canadian International Hockey League to a championship in its only season of existence.
As for the 46-year old Stevenson, he is also a former left winger with the Greyhounds — he actually began his OHL playing career with the Cornwall Royals — who went to play in more than 225 NHL games, including playoffs.
And the 45-year old Roach is another former Greyhound, having patrolled the blue line of the red and white from 1991 to 1995 before being traded to the North Bay Centennials in what was a blockbuster OHL deal back then. Roach was a part of the Greyhounds 1993 Memorial Cup championship team.
The 29-year old Sartoretto is yet another former OHL winger, having played three seasons with the Kitchener Rangers and Saginaw Spirit. He then closed out his junior career as captain of his hometown Soo Thunderbirds, leading them to the NOJHL championship.
And the 27-year old Wright is a former high-end defenseman who played four seasons of Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association hockey with the Lake Superior State University Lakers.
Of note, Stevenson, Sartoretto and Wright all have combined, extensive coaching experience within the Sault Major Hockey Association.