Officially, Sault Ste. Marie is unofficially Hockeytown, at least to us Twin Soo residents who have ice in our veins.
Our status as Hockeytown comes from the fact that the Twin Soo market is home to no less than five teams in five different junior leagues and a Division 1 collegiate program.
At any rate, the dog has been fed, the morning walk has been completed and the grass has been cut and watered.
Ergo, let’s check in on the six high-level teams within the Twin Soo border.
SOO GREYHOUNDS, ONTARIO HOCKEY LEAGUE
The big question in Houndtown is who will replace outgoing general manager Kyle Dubas.
Will the Hounds promote from within the organization or will they make a surprise hire like they did in 2011 when they gave the job to a then 25-year old Dubas?
Dubas, who recently departed the Greyhounds to become the assistant general manager with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League, will be asked to endorse his successor.
To be sure, Dubas has left the Greyhounds — who are coming off their best season since 2007-2008 — in good shape with a roster deep in veteran talent.
SOO EAGLES, NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE
About to enter their third season in the NAHL after spending 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 as members of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, the ownership of the Eagles has established firm roots in the Michigan Soo.
On the ice in 2014-2015, the Eagles have sights set on returning to the North Division playoffs after being edged out for a post-season spot in 2013-2014 that followed a first-place finish in 2012-2013.
To be sure, the Eagles are well-led by primary owner Ron Lavin and coach-general manager Bruno Bragagnolo, who also holds a stake in the ownership.
The Eagles, who play out of venerable and recently-upgraded Pullar Stadium, can return a number of high-end skaters in 2014-2015 led by forwards Nick Belger, Sandis Zolmanis, Brad Pung and Chase Matson.
SOO THUNDERBIRDS, NORTHERN ONTARIO JR. HOCKEY LEAGUE
A first-place regular-season finish in 2013-2014 ended with a loss in the finals of the playoffs for the Thunderbirds, who will return hard-edged Jordan Smith as head coach for a second term.
Though the Thunderbirds have lost several top players to graduation and relocation, they expect to return a number of high-end skaters in 2014-2015 led by the likes of forwards Anthony Miller, Nic Tassone and Jaren Bellini.
SOO FIREHAWKS, MIDWEST JR. HOCKEY LEAGUE
Playing out of Big Bear Arena in the Michigan Soo, the Firehawks have been a part of the MWJHL since it was established in 2012.
Local resident Joe Esson returns as head coach of the Firehawks, who are members of the nine-team MWJHL.
The Firehawks will be out to build on a 2013-2014 campaign in which they made it to the United Hockey Union’s championship tournament as one of two reps from the MWJHL.
BATCHEWANA ATTACK, CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
The Soo’s newest junior team will play out of Rankin Arena as part of the new, eight-team, Canadian International Hockey League.
Batchewana will not be short on leadership led by general manager Dennis Bolton and head coach Denny Lambert.
Bolton was part of the NOJHL for six seasons as an associate coach with three different teams.
Lambert is a former OHL and NHL player of considerable tenure who also has eight years of coaching experience with the Soo Greyhounds, including three as the head guy.
LAKE SUPERIOR STATE LAKERS, WESTERN COLLEGIATE HOCKEY ASSOCIATION
Damon Whitten is the new head coach of the Lakers replacing Jim Roque, who was finally given his walking papers after nine mostly-ineffective seasons as bench boss.
Whitten, who came highly-recommended to Lake Superior State by retired Michigan State Spartans head coach Rick Comley, arrived in the Soo in the spring with a promise to re-connect with fans and a pledge to recruit players from area teams, including the NAHL Eagles.
But thus far, Whitten’s recruits have come from the British Columbia Hockey League, which has prompted mumbling and grumbling from long-time Laker supporters.
PHOTO: Former NHL player and OHL player and coach Denny Lambert will return to the junior hockey game in 2014-2015 as coach of the new Batchewana Attack.