It is a junior A hockey contention that dates back to the 1962-1963 season when the Espanola Eagles and Sudbury Cub Wolves faced off in a six member league that also included the Soo Greyhounds, Soo Realtors, North Bay Trappers and Garson Falconbridge Native Sons. Sixty years later, the rivalry between towns 45 miles apart is a remake featuring the Espanola Paper Kings and Sudbury Cubs.
It is David v. Goliath in terms of population. Small town Espanola is home to about 5,000 inhabitants while Greater Sudbury is the biggest city in Northern Ontario with 165,000 residents. But when it comes to the 12 team Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, Espanola and Sudbury are equals with a rekindled rivalry. This is just the second season for the renamed Sudbury Cubs and the first for the rebranded Espanola Paper Kings, both with fresh colours and eye-catching logos.
The two teams will face off for the first time this season tonight when the Cubs play host to the Paper Kings in a 7:00 p.m. start at Countryside Arena. Sudbury has a 3-0 record to start the 2022-2023 season while Espanola has a 1-1 mark.
Both teams have personnel with prior associations to one another.
Sudbury forward Cameron Walker and defenseman Nicholas Toffoli were both acquired by the Cubs in separate trades with the erstwhile Espanola Express last season. Meanwhile, Paper Kings goalie Jake Marois and forward Atley Gringorten formerly played for the Cubs. Then there is Sudbury general manager/associate coach Dave Clancy, who is a former NOJHL coach of the year as the old bench boss in Espanola.
Further enhancing the competition between the two teams is that the Paper Kings have four Greater Sudbury products on their roster — the aforementioned Marois and Gringorten as well as holdover forwards Benjamin Lacroix and Ryan Rubic.
Then there is the fact that Espanola is the new NOJHL affiliate for the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League. And the Wolves have already assigned a pair of top 2022 OHL priority selections draft picks to the Paper Kings in goalie Drew Gaulton and defenseman Conor Walton.
Let the modern Espanola-Sudbury junior A hockey matchup begin.