Rumours have been rampant that the reigning Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League champion Soo Thunderbirds are on the verge of ceasing operations for the 2015-2016 season.
But while folding the team does not appear to be the plan, the franchise is on the market.
As HockeyNewsNorth.com first reported that the Thunderbirds are indeed for sale, owner Albert Giommi confirmed that he is “committed to continuing to find someone to take over the operations” of the NOJHL team.
“We are currently working through some logistical operations and are continuing on our focus of keeping a junior A hockey team in Sault Ste Marie,” Giommi told HockeyNewsNorth.com.
“I have always made it very clear that I was not staying involved forever and as you have been so kind to assist in your past article, I am trying to find others that may be interested in continuing with a very successful junior A hockey program,” added Giommi, who has been with the Thunderbirds as a major sponsor since they entered the NOJHL in 1999.
Meanwhile, Giommi noted that while the NOJHL is poised to be a 12-team league in 2015-2016 that includes the return of the cross-river Soo Eagles after three seasons in the North American Hockey League, the Thunderbirds need to play out of an arena that is suited for the junior A brand.
“The NOJHL has come a very long ways in the last four years and the Soo Eagles coming back into the league will make for some very exciting hockey,” Giommi began.
“But,” he continued, “the Thunderbirds need a proper barn to play out of — one that is suited for a junior A hockey team.
“The Essar Centre has great seating but is way too large. John Rhodes Arena not only needs more seating but more comfortable seating and a media box.
“There are two locations that I believe that the Birds should play out of — either the Pee Wee Arena or Rankin Arena,” Giommi concluded.