He is the main man behind the scenes.
He is the guy who manages the roster and uses his many contacts in the game to keep his team a contender.
He is polite but he can be gruff. He has a cool hand but an iron fist.
He is Kevin Cain of the Soo Thunderbirds and he is the best general manager in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, as voted on by his peers year after year.
This is Cain’s fifth season as Thunderbird GM and he is the constant on a team that is an annual NOJHL contender.
NOJHL champs in 2011-2012 and runners-up in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, the Cain-built T-Birds are again a top team in 2014-2015.
To be sure, Cain knows the junior A game and he knows how to build a team with character kids from Sault Ste. Marie and elsewhere.
But ask him about the success he has had in the NOJHL and he shrugs and looks a tad uncomfortable.
“Just doing my job,” is his standard reply.
Cain has not just had NOJHL success with the Thunderbirds.
He took over the erstwhile Soo Indians as coach-general manager midway through the 2006-2007 campaign and led a dysfunctional franchise to the NOJHL championship before it folded soon after the season ended.
In many ways, Cain is a respected face of the NOJHL as a reasonable man who doesn’t let differences he may have with others affect the way he does league business.
“I love what I do,” Cain is fond of saying. “The Thunderbirds and the NOJHL are a big part of my life.”
A Canada Post employee who is on long-term leave from an accident that required disc surgery, Cain continues to serve the Thunderbirds and the NOJHL in a volunteer capacity. Next to his wife Debbie and their blended family of four kids, hockey is what consumes Cain, a hometown kid who grew up in Sault Ste. Marie’s west end.
“I am surrounded by good people, both away from the game and within it,” he said on a recent edition of the Hockey North Show that airs on radio station ESPN 1400.
Some of those same hockey people have nothing but good to say about him.
“He is a really good hockey guy who knows how to manage a team and he is a good person who has a lot of respect in the board room,” said NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca.