A late spring breeze has altered the makeup of four of the 12 teams that have membership within the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
From east to west, north winds of change have blown through Timmins, Powassan, Elliot Lake and Sault Ste. Marie within the past few weeks.
Will there be more to come?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But for now, there have been direction shifts aplenty.
TIMMINS: The Rock stayed local in hiring hard driven, hard working Brandon Perry as its new coach and general manager.
Perry, who coached the Timmins Majors of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League for the past four seasons, takes over from coach Corey Beer and GM Kevin Peever in being hired for the dual role with the NOJHL Rock.
Both Beer and Peever had, over the past while, left the Rock and the NOJHL for other ventures within hockey.
As for the 32-year old Perry, he played minor hockey in his hometown of Timmins before suiting up for the Kingston Voyageurs of the Ontario Jr. Hockey League for four seasons and then four more years with the Queen’s Golden Gaels of Ontario University Athletics. He graduated from prestigious Queen’s with a degree in Economics.
A smart, skilled center and former Ontario Hockey League draft pick of the Sarnia Sting, Perry finished off his playing career at the pro level with the Huntsville Havoc of the Southern Professional Hockey League. It was in the northern Alabama city of Huntsville that he met his wife, Allyson.
Perry returned to Timmins in 2014 to work and then took over a struggling under 18 Majors program in 2017.
A family man, Perry and his nurse practitioner wife have three kids, two girls and a boy.
Known for being passionately proud of his home town as a quiet, albeit tenacious individual, Perry gained a reputation for getting the most out of his players while coaching the Timmins under 18 team.
POWASSAN: This is a big hire of a celebrated coach who has won championships with two different teams in the NOJHL.
Hard nosed and a good guy, Marc Lafleur is returning to the NOJHL as bench boss of the Voodoos.
Powassan was unable to compete in the NOJHL in 2020-2021 because of arena issues relative to COVID-19.
Lafleur worked as a volunteer assistant coach with the Carleton Place Canadians of the Central Canada Hockey League during the 2020-2021 COVID-19 shortened season after relocating there to be with family.
The 45-year old Lafleur coached his hometown Hearst Lumberjacks to the NOJHL championship in 2018-2019.
And prior to that, Lafleur won an NOJHL championship as coach and general manager of the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in 2013-2014.
ELLIOT LAKE: With a new name, new management and a new staff, Elliot Lake is set to return to the NOJHL for the 2021-2022 season after having taken a leave of absence for what became an abbreviated 2020-2021 campaign.
To be sure, Elliot Lake will be out to make a much-needed, fresh start as the newly-named Red Wings in 2021-2022 after sitting out the 2020-2021 season.
Among the big changes that have been made has the Elliot Lake franchise now under the operational management of Paul Noad as the rebranded Red Wings, who will be led by new coach Brian Noad and new GM John Buchanan. All have extensive junior hockey backgrounds and research on the trio has come up positive.
The new coach and management team will be out to reverse its on-ice fortunes in 2021-2022.
Elliot Lake’s most recent NOJHL season — the 2019-2020 campaign — was a disaster with a mere 17 points from a 7-46-3 record for the then-called Wildcats and a last place finish in the 12-team league under the wasted watch of coach-GM Taureen White.
SOO: Two friends with prime time backgrounds have teamed up to take over the Thunderbirds.
Good citizens Cole Jarrett and Trevor Daley obtained operational control of the Thunderbirds from local businessman Darren Smyl. Smyl had presided over the Thunderbirds since 2017.
Besides operating the team, Jarrett will be the head coach of the Thunderbirds.
Jarrett and Daley were both drafted into the Ontario Hockey League in 1999 as players born in 1983.
A Sault Ste. Marie product, Jarrett was a third round pick (44th overall) of the Plymouth Whalers (now Flint Firebirds) while Daley was a first round selection (10th overall) by the Soo Greyhounds. Both players would play four seasons in the OHL and develop as standout defensemen who captained their respective teams.
Jarrett’s pro career took him to the American Hockey League, the National Hockey League and overseas to Finland, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Japan and England.
He has since been involved in minor hockey in the Sault as a director and a coach after returning home with his wife and their two kids following his retirement as a player in 2018.
As for the personable Daley, the Toronto product has an association to Sault Ste. Marie besides having played for the Greyhounds, given that his wife is from the Soo and they maintain a residence in the area.
Daley, to be sure, had an outstanding pro career after graduating from the OHL and the Greyhounds.
A second round pick by the Dallas Stars at the 2002 NHL draft, Daley would go on to play 16 seasons at the game’s highest level, skating in more than 1,100 games, playoffs included.
Besides Dallas, Daley also suited up for the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. He retired as an NHL player in 2020 and took a job as a hockey operations advisor with the NHL Penguins.
In the front office, the Thunderbirds will be headed by incoming general manager Jamie Henderson, who was hand-picked by Jarrett and Daley for the position.
The 44-year old Henderson returns to the Thunderbirds after an absence of several years. He was part of the team’s championship successes of the previous decade as an assistant coach and assistant GM.