Elliot Lake Vikings of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League will continue to be without use of its shut down, home arena for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, the Vikings are holding practice sessions 40 miles from Elliot Lake at the Massey and District Community Arena. As for where Vikings home games will be played while Centennial Arena in Elliot Lake is closed, Massey is a possibility.
Indeed, Vikings president Jef Jarmovitch told Hockey News North that he hopes his team is eventually able to temporarily play its home games in Massey while Centennial Arena in Elliot Lake remains closed due to structural concerns. Jarmovitch and NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca recently visited the Massey and District Community Arena and met with its arena manager to inspect the facility, which has a seating capacity of about 250. Massey is a tidy town of about 3,200 area residents.
“(Mazzuca) gave the arena manager a list of upgrades and additions that need to be met in order to be considered,” Jarmovitch relayed to Hockey News North. “I think they are working on that now. I can tell you that the Town of Massey 100 percent supports the Elliot Lake Vikings going there.”
In the meantime, the Vikings will play their “home” games in Blind River, which also houses the Beavers of the NOJHL.
As far as Centennial Arena in Elliot Lake, it was closed on Sept. 12 following an inspection of the facility’s wood components. In an update on Sept. 27, Acting Mayor Andrew Wannan said a draft report regarding the facility’s structure has determined further investigation is warranted.
“The City of Elliot Lake is in receipt of a draft report from the technical engineering firm Wood Research and Development (WRD) that has identified more specific conditions within the arena structure that are of concern. As such, additional investigation will be necessary to determine the extent of repairs and an estimated timeline.
“City staff are working with the engineering firm to have them provide a comprehensive package detailing fulsome options the city can consider, and that we can present to residents.
“We recently issued notice of an upcoming community information session where we hoped to solicit feedback from residents. That feedback is best served if residents have a more complete understanding of the scope of work required.
“Unfortunately, it is becoming clear that this process is going to take additional time. Regrettably, the 2023-2024 Centennial Arena programming will be substantially impacted.
“The City of Elliot Lake has begun the process of removing the ice surface from the Centennial Arena. This is a difficult decision to make. The priority of this council is the safety of our community. That being said, further investigation is required to help us determine the short- and long-term viability of the arena,” said Wannan.
The decision to inspect Centennial was made after the facility was closed three times last winter due to leaks in the roof. The last inspection had been in 2019 when substantial repairs were identified and completed including an extensive roof repair job.
Centennial Arena was built in 1968.
As for the Vikings, it was during the past off season — and much to the excitement of the majority of hockey fans in town — that aforementioned local resident Jef Jarmovitch took over operation of the former Elliot Lake Red Wings. Jarmovitch immediately rebranded the NOJHL franchise as the Elliot Lake Vikings. Notably, junior hockey made its debut in Elliot Lake in 1965 and from then until 1997, the team was known as the Vikings.
With Jarmovitch at the helm, the renamed Vikings have put an emphasis on providing a place for players from northern Ontario to play. In total, no less than 10 Vikings players are from various northern Ontario cities and towns.
The list of northern lads on the Vikings rosters includes goalies Cameron Boville and Sam Keene, defensemen Sam Verbonac, Tyler Thompson, Carter Carriere and Braeden Vis and forwards Anthony Bertrand, Noah Aboflan, Connor Desbois and Liam Bridgeman.
Boville and Verbonac are both from Sault Ste. Marie, Keene is from the Thunder Bay area, Thompson, Carriere, Vis and Bertrand are all from in and around Sudbury while Aboflan and Desbois are both homegrown Elliot Lake products and Bridgeman is from the Manitoulin Island town of Mindemoya.
While frustrated with what has happened relative to Centennial Arena given the excitement from local fans and supporters in Elliot Lake about the new local ownership and the renaming of the team as the Vikings, Jarmovitch as the president and operator has remained positive and upbeat while thanking the many fans and supporters for standing behind him.
“I am just an ordinary joe who bought the team to save junior A in this hockey town,” said Jarmovitch, who works as a medical laboratory technologist at St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Elliot Lake, which is a Highway 108 town of about 10,000 residents.
Jarmovitch, to be sure, has a passion for Elliot Lake, junior hockey, and the Vikings moniker.
“In 1980, when I was four years old, my family moved to Elliot Lake when my father got a job with Rio Algom Mines … and I have been here ever since,” Jarmovitch recalled. “I remember as a kid going to all the Elliot Lake Vikings home games in the 1980s and early 1990s … and from 1994 to 1996 I was a goalie for the hometown Vikings.”
Hopefully this all works out for good guy Jarmovitch and the Vikings.