They are the youngsters who come from the faraway, isolated and remote northern Ontario towns that are not nearly big enough to ice AAA level hockey teams. And in order to play in say, the AAA Great North Under 18 Hockey League, they have to travel anywhere from 125 to 350 miles from home to do so.
There are eight teams in six towns that make up the Great North. Sudbury and North Bay each have two teams while Sault Ste. Marie and the much smaller centres of Timmins, Kapuskasing and New Liskeard all have one each.
Notably, the Timmins Majors and Kapuskasing Flyers both utilize several good players from various other small town northern outposts.
• Just over half of the 19 players on the Timmins roster are locals. And of the top end, out of town talent that has trekked to Timmins to play for the Majors they include several skaters from the remote James Bay settlement of Moose Factory and two others who hail from the isolated Canadian Pacific Railroad town of Chapleau. (pictured above.) A town of just under 2,000 residents, Chapleau is located near the junction of rough, weather-beaten Highways 129 and 101. Those from Moose Factory who are mainstays for Timmins include 17-year olds Shawn Gagnon, Devin Cheena and Eric Innes and 15-year old Jordan McLeod. The Chapleau chaps who moved to Timmins to play for the Majors are 16-year old forward Colten Lane and 15-year old defenseman Cole Ellis. Ellis, by the way, has been tabbed as a prospect for the 2023 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft. The Majors currently have a record of 8-6-2 in Great North action.
• Meanwhile, over in Kapuskasing, there are only five local products who are regulars for the Flyers, who supplement their roster with players from the towns of Moosonee, Hearst, Hornepayne, Wawa and Blind River. From the out of town talent, 16-year old goalie Alex Boivin has been an above average performer for the Flyers as have forwards Xavier Boulanger and Tannen Iserhoff. Boivin hails from Blind River, the 17-year old Boulanger is a Hearst fella and the 16-year old Iserhoff is from Moosonee. Kapuskasing is currently in second place in the Great North with a record of 9-3-1.
• Then there is another Blind River product in 17-year forward Jacob Beemer. A veteran of the Great North, Beemer has done his share of playing away from home. Now with the North Bay Under 18 Trappers, Beemer originally moved away from Blind River to play in Kapuskasing.