In with the Sioux Lookout Bombers. Out with the Thief River Falls Norskies. Seven teams will make up the Superior International Jr. Hockey League for the 2022-2023 season.
As Sioux Lookout is poised to make its debut as a member of the SIJHL in ’22-23, Thief River Falls has been exited from the the league.
Based in northern Minnesota, Thief River Falls joined the SIJHL for the 2016-2017 season. Following the Covid affected season of 2020-2021, Thief River Falls resumed operations as a member of the SIJHL to begin the 2021-2022 campaign. But the Norskies shut down operations in January of this year after 21 games and a 5-16-0 record because of failure to meet minimum roster requirements.
SIJHL commissioner Darrin Nicholas had hoped to have Thief River Falls back in the league for the upcoming 2022-2023 campaign only to have to come to the conclusion that the Norskies would not be a part of the picture for the looming season.
“We did not foresee ourselves in this position, even back in January when there was no choice but to shut them down,” Nicholas began. “We said at that time that we would work tirelessly towards the return of SIJHL hockey in Thief River Falls (for) September. I believe we have done that but obviously we were hoping for different results.
“It is no secret that the operations in Thief River Falls last season struggled to meet minimum expectations of the league in almost all areas. Substantial change was required, which we set out to bring. Ultimately though there are lots of moving parts, we were getting few – if any – encouraging signs that the situation was progressing in the direction we needed it to, within the time frame we had established. With every day that passed, the runway got shorter, and we just felt it was no longer feasible, reasonable or responsible to continue to pursue the plan of playing in Thief River Falls this September,” Nicholas added.
“Thief River Falls is a market for our league worth fighting for — and fight we did. We know there are passionate and committed fans and volunteers there willing to step up if given the opportunity. Our door will always be open for discussion to resume operations in that beautiful community and facility,” summed up Nicholas.
At any rate, with Thief River Falls out and Sioux Lookout in, the SIJHL will remain a seven member league for the time being. Besides Sioux Lookout, the SIJHL will proceed with six other established teams — Dryden Ice Dogs, Kam River Fighting Walleye, Fort Frances Lakers, Red Lake Miners, Thunder Bay North Stars and Wisconsin Lumberjacks for the ’22-23 season.