Beavers and Vikings

August 1, 2023

There are team monikers with deep historical roots that should never be messed with. To be sure, they are teams with names that should never change. Such as Blind River Beavers and Elliot Lake Vikings. They are two junior hockey franchises that came into existence together back in 1965.

Except for one season, Blind River has always been the Beavers, first as members of the old International Jr. B Hockey League beginning in 1965 and now, since 1999, as a mainstay program in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.

Meanwhile, the once vaunted Vikings are back to reclaim their age old junior hockey status in Elliot Lake. Long-time local resident Jef Jarmovitch recently took over operation of the Elliot Lake Red Wings from Paul Noad and rebranded the NOJHL franchise as the Elliot Lake Vikings.

Elliot Lake began as the Vikings in 1965 — the same year the Blind River Beavers were formed — as charter members of the aforementioned International Jr. B Hockey League. But since 1997, when the Vikings went off to sea, there have been the Elliot Lake Ice, Elliot Lake Bobcats, Elliot Lake Wildcats and Elliot Lake Red Wings of the NOJHL. (The Bobcats were also part of the Greater Metro Jr. Hockey League.)

But now, thanks to Jarmovitch, the Vikings are back in Elliot Lake and part of a rejuvenated rivalry with the Beavers of Blind River effective the looming 2023-2024 season. To be sure, Blind River and Elliot Lake are natural rivals as two gritty towns that are separated by less than 40 miles of Highway 17 and Highway 108.

With a population of just over 11,000, Elliot Lake is noticeably larger than Blind River, which boasts about 3,500 hearty souls. But as hockey towns, Elliot Lake and Blind River share an equal passion for the junior game.

Finally now, once again, the vintage rivalry is back: Elliot Lake Vikings v. Blind River Beavers. And Kyle Brick, as the long-time head coach and general manager of the Beavers, is beyond thrilled for a new beginning to an age old rivalry.

“The rivalry between both these teams is deeply rooted within the communities and Elliot Lake always draws our best crowds,” Brick relayed to Hockey News North. “I think with Jef (Jarmovitch) bringing back the Vikings name it will only draw more attention to our games.

“I am excited for Jef as he enters year one as an owner,” Brick continued. “I think Jef will do a great job at turning that franchise around and I am looking forward to more heated games against them. There is nothing better than Blind River vs. Elliot Lake on a Saturday night. With that being said, I love nothing more than beating Elliot Lake and the same goes for our fans.”

Jarmovitch, in turn, as the new owner of the Elliot Lake franchise, is not only thrilled to have brought back the Vikings moniker but is eager to try to match the arch-rivals from Blind River for on-ice success.

“First off, the rebranding back to the Elliot Lake Vikings was a no brainer to me. Having watched the great Vikings teams in the 1980s to playing for the hometown team in the mid 1990s, there was always that intense rivalry between Elliot Lake and Blind River,” Jarmovitch relayed to Hockey News North. “Our best attended home games have always been against Blind River.”

Jarmvoitch, who will continue to be an assistant coach for Elliot Lake as well as the new owner of the Vikings, further noted that “it is pretty cool to look across from the home bench and see upwards of 50 fans from Blind River make the trip to Elliot Lake to watch their team.

“The past several seasons Blind River has been the more successful team,” Jarmovitch continued. “Kyle (Brick) has done a great job turning things around in Blind River since he has been there (since 2016.) And my goal is to do the same thing here.

“Elliot Lake is still a hockey town,” Jarmovitch said firmly. “Our attendance has been decent the last few years but my goal is to get more people out to the games and supporting the team. We are off to a bit of a late start, as the ownership transfer took place only two weeks ago, but our group is putting in a lot of time and energy to hopefully grab a playoff spot this upcoming season. And I most certainly am looking forward to again renewing the Vikings versus Beavers rivalry for many years to come.”

NOJHL commissioner Rob Mazzuca also gave a quick take on the Blind River-Elliot Lake rivalry when asked by Hockey News North.

“The proximity between the two communities has made for a natural rivalry between the two teams over the years, Mazzuca began. “Nearby competitors always makes for interesting action on the ice and generates additional fan support at both Centennial Arena and the Blind River Community Centre.

“Now with the rebrand of the Vikings name, we look forward to see their long-standing rivalry resume with their season-opening match-up, set for September 7 in Blind River,” summed up Mazzuca.


Blind River will again feature several players from the north region this season. Among the veterans slated to return to the Beaver pond goalie Gavin Disano, forward Jacob Kovacs and defenseman Matthew Kallo. Disano and Kovacs, who both have 2003 birth dates, are from Sault Ste. Marie while Kallo, who is from Espanola, was born in 2005.

Matthew Kallo

Disano had a 24-8-1 record with a 2.14 goals against average and .920 save percentage for Blind River in 2022-2023. Kovacs, meanwhile, had 18 goals in 55 games and Kallo had eight points in 46 outings from his blue line post.

Meanwhile, three area newcomers who have been signed to play in Blind River in ’23-24 are forwards Jacob Beemer, Piper Post and Brendan Cooke. 

Beemer, who is a local Blind River product, skated for the Great North Under 18 Hockey League champion North Bay Trappers in ’22-23. Beemer, who has a 2005 birth date, netted eight goals, 13 assists, 21 points in 32 games for North Bay in ’22-23, regular season and playoffs included.

Post, who hails from Bruce Mines and who has a 2006 birth date, played in the unsanctioned Greater Metro Hockey League last season. Before that, he played in the Great North U18 HL for the Soo Jr. Greyhounds.

Then there is Brendan Cooke, a 2007 birth year stalwart who is from Thessalon, which is located between Bruce Mines and Blind River along Highway 17. Regular season and playoffs included for the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North U18 HL in ’22-23, Cooke connected for 28 goals, 24 assists, 52 points in 33 games. He was subsequently picked by the Flint Firebirds in the eighth round of this year’s Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft.


There is also a focus on local and area talent in Elliot Lake.

Alex Antoine

For example, the new look Vikings stand to return two pretty good forwards from the former 2022-2023 Red Wings team in the persons of local Elliot Lake products Alex Antoine and Noah Aboflan. Antoine, who has a 2003 birth date, has played the past two seasons for his hometown Elliot Lake team and produced 32 goals, 29 assists, 61 points. Aboflan, who was born in 2005, netted eight goals, eight assists, 16 points as an NOJHL rookie in ’22-23.

And among the newcomers to the Vikings for the ’23-24 season are four players with northern Ontario roots. 

• Defenseman Sam Verbonac is poised to play for the Vikings following a trade with the Huntsville Otters of the Provincial Jr. C Hockey League earlier this summer. Verbonac, who has a 2005 birth date, is a Sault Ste. Marie product who, prior to heading to Huntsville, was a steady defender for the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League. He also has six games of prior NOJHL experience with the Espanola Paper Kings.

• 2007 birth year defenseman Carter Carriere signed with Elliot Lake earlier this summer. Carriere played the ’22-23 season with the Sudbury Under 16 Nickel Capitals of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League and in 31 games, playoffs included, he netted six goals, 10 assists, 16 points.

• Local lad Connor Desbois will be following in his father’s footsteps when he hits the ice for the Vikings this coming season. Desbois, an Elliott Lake product who is a 2006 birth year forward, is the son of Kevin Desbois. The older Desbois was a defenseman with the old Elliot Lake Vikings of the NOJHL from 1994 to 1996. His playing career came to an end when he suffered a broken leg.

Sam Keene

The younger Desbois has spent the past two seasons with the Sudbury Nickel Capitals of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League. In total, the 5-foot-7, 160 pound Desbois produced 10 goals, eight assists, 18 points in 58 games, playoffs included, for the Nickel Capitals. He also appeared in 12 NOJHL games as an affiliate player for the Elliot Lake Red Wings and netted one goal, two assists, three points.

Now, effective the ’23-24 season, young Desbois gets to don the Vikings jersey and colours that his dad once wore.

• One of two new goalies that Elliot Lake has signed this summer is a northwestern Ontario lad. He is Sam Keene, who hails from the Thunder Bay area. Somewhat on the small side at 5-foot-9, 150 pounds, Keene, who has a 2005 birth date, is committed to move across the northern regions of Ontario from the Thunder Bay Under 18 Kings to Elliot Lake and tend twine for the Vikings this coming season.

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