One of the more honest, easy-to-deal-with individuals to ever be a part of the Ontario Hockey League has joined the Rayside Balfour Canadians of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
Good guy Blaine Smith, who faithfully served the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL for 31 years in a number of capacities including marketing director, general manager, vice president and president, will lend his considerable smarts and expertise to Rayside Balfour as a senior advisor for the NOJHL team.
Smith, who started with the Wolves as an intern while still a student in the sports marketing program at Laurentian University in Sudbury, was let go by Dario Zulich, owner of the OHL team, when his contract expired on August 1.
Zulich purchased the Wolves in 2016 from president Mark Burgess and his family. The Burgess family had owned the Wolves for 30 years and Smith was one of its most loyal and trusted employees.
Interestingly, after three years away from the Wolves and the OHL, it was Mark Burgess who got back into the game earlier this summer when he purchased the NOJHL’s Rayside Balfour franchise. And now, Burgess and Smith are together again with Rayside Balfour, which operates out of the Greater Sudbury area community of Chelmsford.
Smith, from his end, said he is happy to have a role in junior hockey with Rayside Balfour after being cast aside by the OHL Wolves.
“The Wolves brass advised me that they would not be renewing my contract and cut me loose after 31 years of service on August 1,” Smith began.
“Shortly after, Burgie asked me to join him as a senior advisor and give a hand to his young management team that includes Jeff Forsyth, an outstanding up-and-coming general manager who has assembled an amazing group of talented and mostly local players for our Rayside Balfour team, Brittany Zacerkowny an amazing team office manager who takes care of everything and handles ticket sales and advertising, Roberto Bagnato our volunteer communications director that provides amazing social media graphics and communications, Julie Dubois an unbelievable volunteer from Chelmsford who takes care of game night duties with her family’s assistance and of course, our head coach, Danny Cuomo,” Smith added.
Of note, both Forsyth and Cuomo worked as scouts under Burgess and Smith while all were with the OHL Wolves.
Smith said that besides the Burgess family, he is thankful to a number of people who made his 31-year stay with the OHL Wolves a memorable one.
“I am grateful and appreciative to all of the players, fans, team staff, billets, volunteers and businesses who have been so loyal to the Wolves over the years.
“I’d sincerely appreciate seeing everyone at a Rayside Balfour, NOJHL game this season so I can thank them personally. The Canadians will have a very exciting team to support this season,” concluded Smith.
By the way, part of Smith’s duties will be to represent Burgess and the Rayside Balfour franchise at NOJHL league and executive meetings.
SEASON OPENER TONIGHT
Rayside Balfour will open the 2019-2020 NOJHL regular season at home tonight against the Powassan Voodoos at 7:00 p.m. at Chelmsford Arena.
The Canadians will feature 13 OHL draft picks, highlighted by 2019 OHL priority selections Zachary Giroux (Flint Firebirds), Mitchell Martin (Kitchener Rangers) and Oliver Smith (Barrie Colts.)
Tickets for tonight’s home opener can be purchased at Chelmsford Arena prior to the game.
Admission for adults is $12, seniors $10 and free for youth under 7.