The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or so it seems. During the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League’s last complete season, the 2018-2019 campaign, the Soo Thunderbirds finished first overall in the 12 team loop with 15 local players in their lineup.
Ditto the current 2021-2022 season.
With two games still to play in the regular season, the Thunderbirds have already clinched first place overall. Winners of 16 straight games, the Thunderbirds have a league-best record of 36-5-5 and will have home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Like the ’18-19 Thunderbirds who finished first with a record of 44-11-1, this year’s edition also has 15 local players on it.
Really, it doesn’t seem to matter who owns, manages, or coaches the Thunderbirds — the local look is there.
Back during the ’18-19 first-place season, local businessman Darren Smyl owned the Thunderbirds, Trev Zachary was the general manager, John Parco was the head coach, and Marc Disano and Toots Kovacs were the assistant coaches.
This time around, the group is different but the commitment to local players is the same. Trevor Daley and Cole Jarrett are the owners, Jarrett is also the head coach, Jeremy Rebek, Anthony Miller and Joe Miller are the assistant coaches and Jamie Henderson is the general manager. Notably, the Miller boys both played for the Thunderbirds during their NOJHL playing days.
Really, since entering the NOJHL in 1999, the Thunderbirds have always had the mandate of icing a team of as many qualified local players as possible. It is a tradition that has been passed on from original operator and founder Sam Biasucci to the Pat Egan/Al Jones tandem to the Jo-Anne Brooks/Albert Giommi duo to Darren Smyl to the current Daley/Jarrett ownership.
Rather impressively, the Thunderbirds have never had a losing season since coming into the NOJHL back in 1999.
By the way, even though the aforementioned Thunderbirds team of ’18-19 finished in first place overall during the regular season, it came up just short of winning the league playoff championship. In what was a series for the ages, the Thunderbirds lost to the visiting Hearst Lumberjacks in the seventh and deciding game of the league finals.
At any rate, the successes that the Thunderbirds have enjoyed through all of these years that they have been members of the NOJHL can be attributed in no small way to the good number of local players who have suited up for their hometown Soo team.