The operators of the new Elliot Lake Red Wings of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League have already scored big without playing a game.
As Elliot Lake is poised to return to the NOJHL for the 2021-2022 season after being on leave of absence in 2020-2021, the rebranded Red Wings — formerly known as the Wildcats — have signed a pair of local lads.
The two homegrown Elliot Lake products both have 2003 birth dates and are good friends and former minor hockey teammates, namely defenseman Teegan Dumont and center Alexandre Antoine.
The 6-foot-2, 220 pound, right hand shooting Dumont was recently obtained by the Red Wings in a future considerations trade with the nearby rival Blind River Beavers.
Dumont suited up in 12 contests for Blind River during the abbreviated 2020-2021 NOJHL campaign and scored a goal before a seven game suspension for instigating a fight ended his season.
Prior to the 2020-2021 campaign, Dumont played two full seasons in the Great North Under 18 Hockey League as a standout for both the Sudbury Minor Wolves and Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves. In total, Dumont netted 17 goals, 20 assists, 37 points and racked up 142 penalty minutes in 50 regular season games.
Over the course of his two seasons in the Great North, Dumont also skated in eight NOJHL games with the Rayside Balfour Canadians as an affiliate player and netted a goal and an assist.
As for the 5-foot-11, 180 pound Antoine, he recently signed his NOJHL papers for the Red Wings after having played two full seasons in the aforementioned Great North Under 18 Hockey League, suiting up for both the Sudbury Minor Wolves and Kapuskasing Flyers.
In 55 games of Great North regular season play over two seasons, Antoine netted 10 goals, 24 assists, 34 points.
To be sure, Dumont and Antoine both loom as a local crowd favourites for the junior hockey starved fans of Lake.
EL THEN & NOW
Junior hockey has had a presence in Elliot Lake since 1965, beginning with the old Jr. B Vikings.
And since 1997 there have been the Elliot Lake Ice, Elliot Lake Bobcats and Elliot Lake Wildcats of the NOJHL. (The Bobcats were also part of the Greater Metro Jr. Hockey League.)
Now, after the Wildcats took a leave of absence from the NOJHL in 2020-2021, the franchise was recently rebranded as the Elliot Lake Red Wings with new operator, new general manager and new coaching staff in place ahead of the 2021-2022 season.
To be sure, the business and hockey operations department of the Red Wings is firm, not to mention flush with foremost experience led by front man and managing director Paul Noad, head coach Brian Noad, general manager John Buchanan, vice president Mark Savery, assistant coach Adam Lamarre and mentor Raffi Torres.
Paul Noad and Brian Noad are brothers.
Notably, as players, the aforementioned Torres was a star winger in the Ontario Hockey League spanning three full seasons with the Brampton Battalion before going on to play in more than 700 National Hockey League games — while both Lamarre (Bowling Green University Falcons) and Paul Noad (Colorado College Tigers) skated for multiple years apiece at the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association level.
Meanwhile, Buchanan and Savery both have extensive management and player personnel backgrounds on the Ontario junior hockey scene. And Brian Noad has 35 years of coaching experience with AAA and junior teams in Ontario and Alberta.
Thus, at first blush as it pertains to the NOJHL as a league and Elliot Lake as a program, the Red Wings certainly appear to be in trusted, capable hands a few months ahead of their forthcoming, debut season of 2021-2022.
No doubt, the incoming management and coaching team has nowhere to go but up as it strives to make a successful new beginning for junior hockey in Elliot Lake, a town of more than 10,000 residents that is located off of Highway 17 between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.
Elliot Lake’s last season in the NOJHL — the 2019-2020 campaign — was a disaster under the Wildcats moniker. The Wildcats finished in last place in the 12-team NOJHL with a record of 7-46-3.
But in communicating with the Noad brothers as respective operator and coach, Buchanan as the GM and NOJHL commissioner Rob Mazzuca, the impression is quite clear that this is a favourable, reliable group intent on righting what was, over the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons, not up to standards with the Elliot Lake franchise.
“We are going to do this right,” Buchanan relayed to Hockey News North.
“I have a lot of faith in Paul (Noad) and his group,” offered Mazzuca, as the NOJHL’s commander in chief. “We look forward to seeing the Red Wings in action in the months ahead.”
Elliot Lake has a successful past as a junior hockey franchise both on the ice and at the gate — during good times it was not uncommon for venerable Centennial Arena to be packed to the rafters on a Saturday night and fans listening in to the play by play broadcast on radio station CKNR.
Now, if the new group lives up to its own ambitions and intentions and if the Red Wings can at least be competitive in their first season, one might rightfully expect good attendance and lively rivalries with Elliot Lake’s established NOJHL West Division counterparts — Soo Eagles, Soo Thunderbirds, Blind River Beavers, Espanola Express and the Sudbury based Rayside Balfour Canadians.
SOO CREW IN EL
There are players and coaches with a strong link to Sault Ste. Marie and Elliot Lake.
For example, Soo boys Chris Thorburn and Craig Kennedy were both top forwards who played a season of junior in Elliot Lake before becoming high picks at the 1999 OHL priority selections draft. Thorburn — who would eventually go on to play in more than 800 NHL games — was a first round pick of the North Bay Centennials while Kennedy went in the second round to the Windsor Spitfires.
Before that, winger Jeremy Stevenson was a first round pick by the Cornwall Royals from the Elliot Lake midgets at the 1990 OHL priority selections draft.
Stevenson, who was later traded to the Soo Greyhounds before going on to skate in 240 NHL games, now resides in Sault Ste. Marie with his wife and family. And Stevenson is as an assistant coach with the Soo Thunderbirds of the NOJHL.
Also of note, those who call the Soo their hometown and who once coached junior hockey in Elliot Lake include John Becanic Sr., Frank Porco and Ryan Leonard.