This is an age old tug-of-war that I am so looking forward to writing up again.
That is, the rabid, often rowdy rivalry between the gritty, nearby junior hockey towns of Blind River and Elliot Lake is poised to be rekindled.
With a new name, new management and a new staff, Elliot Lake is set to return to the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League for the 2021-2022 season after having taken a leave of absence for what became an abbreviated 2020-2021 campaign.
Geographically, Blind River and Elliot Lake are separated by a mere 40 miles of rugged highway.
Blind River Beavers coach-general manager Kyle Brick is looking forward to the return of Elliot Lake to the NOJHL.
“We are excited to have our nearby division rival back in business … there is nothing better than Blind River vs. Elliot Lake on a Saturday night,” Brick told Hockey News North.
“I am happy for that organization to get back on their feet. It wasn’t the same without them. With that being said, I love nothing more than beating Elliot Lake and the same goes for our fans,” added the 35-year old Brick, who has been with the Beavers for five seasons and is the winning-est coach in Blind River’s NOJHL history, one that began back in 1999.
Elliot Lake, on the other hand, 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.
To be sure, 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 forgetable watch of coach-GM Taureen White. That same season, Blind River finished fourth overall with 78 points from a very impressive record of 37-15-4.
It certainly would be a boost for the Blind River/Elliot Lake rivalry if both teams were competitive at once, beginning with the upcoming season.
There are rivalries in the NOJHL that are not for the faint of heart, including the cross-border battle that is the Soo Eagles v. Soo Thundedrbirds.
Here’s hoping the Blind River-Elliot Lake competition can be equally hard fought.