New GM builds on to Bird house

August 19, 2015

Having been elevated from assistant general manager to general manager over the course of the off-season, Jamie Henderson has sights set on keeping the reigning champion Soo Thunderbirds at the top of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League perch.

While he will still answer to Kevin Cain — the on again, off again, back again, former GM who is now president of the Thunderbirds — Henderson is moving forward as the man in charge of hockey operations.

To be sure, he has been busy overseeing tryout and evaluation camps while signing players and putting a new addition onto the Bird house.

And while the Thunderbirds have only one goalie signed for the 2015-2016 season — 1997 birth-year rookie Brandon Gordon, who will be the backup — Henderson is building a roster with seasoned forwards and defenceman.

“I think in the end our team this year will be good…hopefully as good as last year,” Henderson said evenly. “In the meantime, we are waiting to see how our goaltender situation will play out.”

1995 birth-year veteran Brian Kment and 1997 birth-year rookie Mario Culina backstopped the Thunderbirds to the NOJHL and Dudley-Hewitt Cup, Central Canada championships in 2014-2015.

But since then, Kment has indicated that he will be moving on from the junior game to concentrate on school while Culina has a tryout with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League.

“We’ll see what happens with Mario and go from there,” Henderson said. “We have other options that have come into play.”

Meanwhile, those poised to return to the Thunderbird lineup for 2015-2016 include several local skaters — defencemen Brandon Grandinetti, Andrew Barbeau and Caleb Boman and forwards Jaren Bellini, Joey Miller, Nathan Hebert, Matt Pinder, Matt Mitchell and Matt Caruso, among others.

With rookie forward Mark Tassone also penciled in for duty as a 1999 birth-year skater and with a few impressive newcomers signed from the Soo Thunderbirds of the Great North Midget Hockey League, the defending NOJHL champs appear to once again be a team of strength.


The host Thunderbirds, Soo Eagles and Elliot Lake Wildcats will face off in a three-game, pre-season series.

The round-robin set will be held on Labour Day weekend at John Rhodes Community Centre.

Opening game is slated for Saturday, Sept. 5 when the Eagles and Wildcats take to the ice for a 1 p.m. matinee match.

Later on the Saturday, Elliot Lake will play its second game when the Wildcats face the Thunderbirds at 8 p.m.

The series will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. when the Twin Soo teams begin the renewal of their cross-river rivalry.

The 2015-2016 NOJHL regular season will begin on Friday, Sept. 11 with all 12 teams in action.

What you think about “New GM builds on to Bird house”

  1. The NOJHL website lists 10 of the 12 teams having made at least one transaction. Espanola and the Eagles have not made any according to the site. Does that sound right?

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