Three junior A hockey teams have committed to the Teleco Cup pre-season tournament that is slated for September 9-11 at Norwest Arena on the outskirts of Thunder Bay. They are one team from the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League and two from the Superior International Jr. Hockey League including the host Kam River Fighting Walleye.
The expansion Sioux Lookout Bombers are the other SIJHL team while the Soo Eagles of the NOJHL have also confirmed their intent (pending the official approval of league commissioner Rob Mazzuca) on attending the three-day event, which will also include a fourth entry. Kam River general manager Kevin McCallum told Hockey News North that the fourth team will come from either the NOJHL or the Manitoba Jr. Hockey League.
The four teams will play three round robin games apiece between Friday and Saturday, said McCallum. All four teams will again see action on the Sunday, either in games to decide the tournament champion or the bronze medal, third place finisher.
Looking ahead, the tournament will be a return to his Thunder Bay roots for Doug Laprade, who is the veteran head coach of the Michigan Soo-based Eagles of the NOJHL.
Laprade played junior hockey for the erstwhile Thunder Bay Flyers back during the 1986-1987 season before going on to patrol the right wing for the Lake Superior State University Lakers of the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association for four years.
“Obviously I am very excited to be going home and to be able to coach my team there,” Laprade relayed to Hockey News North. “Hockey has taken me places and given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had and it all started for me back home in Thunder Bay.”
Playing teams from the SIJHL at September’s Teleco Cup will not be a new experience for Laprade and the Eagles.
When the Province of Ontario was in shutdown in January of this year relative to the ‘vid, the Eagles played host to the Wisconsin Lumberjacks of the SIJHL in a pair of games. The Michigan Soo took both matches by 4-3 scores and the games were well received by Laprade and general manager Bruno Bragagnolo of the Eagles and Wisconsin coach-GM Doug Lein.