The rabid, sometimes rowdy rivalry between the nearby junior hockey towns of Blind River and Elliot Lake is poised to be rekindled.
With a new name, new management and a new coach, Elliot Lake is set to return to the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League for the 2021-2022 season after having taken a leave of absence for what became an abbreviated 2020-2021 campaign.
Geographically, Blind River and Elliot Lake are separated by a mere 40 miles of highway.
And, to be sure, Blind River Beavers coach-general manager Kyle Brick is looking forward to the return of Elliot Lake to the NOJHL.
“We are excited to have our nearby division rival back in business … there is nothing better than Blind River vs. Elliot Lake on a Saturday night,” Brick relayed to Hockey News North.
“I am happy for that organization to get back on their feet. It wasn’t the same without them. With that being said, I love nothing more than beating Elliot Lake and the same goes for our fans … let’s drop the puck,” added the 35-year old Brick, who has been with the Beavers for five seasons and is the winning-est coach in Blind River’s NOJHL history, one that began back in 1999.
Elliot Lake, on the other hand, will be out to make a fresh start as the newly-named Red Wings in 2021-2022 after sitting out the 2020-2021 season on a leave of absence.
Among the other changes that have been made has the Elliot Lake franchise in agreement with a management company headed by Paul Noad to look after team operations of the rebranded Red Wings, who will now sport red and white as their colours.
Further to that, holdover Elliot Lake president Len Kutchaw has named John Buchanan as the Red Wings new general manager and Brian Noad as the new head coach.
The new coach and management team will be out to reverse its on-ice fortunes once play resumes next season.
Elliot Lake’s most recent NOJHL season — the 2019-2020 campaign — resulted in a 7-46-3 record for the then-called Wildcats and a last place finish in the 12-team league.
The last time Elliot Lake posted a winning record was the 2015-2016 season.