It has been a back and forth story of good news and bad news for the new Elliot Lake Vikings of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League this season.
The good news began back in the summer when well-liked local resident Jef Jarmovitch purchased the NOJHL’s Elliot Lake franchise from its previous out of town operator. One of the first orders of business for Jarmovitch was to change the team name from Red Wings to Vikings. Notably, junior hockey made its debut in Elliot Lake in 1965 and from then until 1997, the team was known as the Vikings
Fans and sponsors in Elliot Lake were quick to embrace the takeover by Jarmovitch through the purchase of season tickets and advertising. The good news continued through to the team’s 2023-2024 regular season home opener on Sept. 9 when, in front to close to 500 fans at Centennial Arena, the Vikings stunned the reigning NOJHL champion Timmins Rock by a 6-5 score.
But the hoopla was short lived. Shortly after the Vikings home opener, Centennial Arena was suddenly and unexpectedly closed due to structural concerns. The 55 year old building remains closed and no one is saying when hockey will again be played in Elliot Lake.
In the meantime, the Vikings have been playing their “home” games in either of the nearby NOJHL towns of Blind River or Espanola. And practices have been held 45 minutes away in the small town of Massey. Should town officials in Massey get the arena up to NOJHL standards, it is possible that the Vikings could play the remainder of their home games there by mid November or early December of this year.
On the ice and in the standings, it has been a tough go for the Vikings, who are in last place among the six teams of the West Division with a record of 3-8-3 through 14 games. The Vikings have had trouble scoring goals with only 39 tallies in the 14 games, though forwards Noah Aboflan with eight and Gavin McLenaghan with seven have been offensive bright spots. Of note, Aboflan is a local Elliot Lake product.
And there was definitely good news in the Vikings third win of the season, which was a recent 3-2 upset of the powerhouse Sudbury Cubs. The Vikings were outshot 56-28 in the game but goalie Matthew Vahramian literally saved the day with a spectacular 54 save performance.
The 3-2 win for the Vikings was a “home” game that was played in Espanola and many of the 150 or so fans who were in attendance made the 45 mile trek from Elliot Lake to support their team.
Meanwhile, good on Jarmovitch as the owner and the Vikings players, fans and supporters who have hung in there through these unsettling times. Hopefully for them, there is some sort of good news ahead.