There is intent to not only be competitive but to challenge for the championship in what would be a first full season as members of the Superior International Jr. Hockey League.
COVID-19 limited the expansion Kam River Fighting Walleye to just four regular season games plus a challenge tournament with the nearby Thunder Bay North Stars in 2020-2021. Now, key player commitments have the Fighting Walleye prepared to swim ahead of the 2021-2022 season.
Among those who are lined up to skate on the Kam River for the upcoming season are multiple junior hockey veterans.
Among the returnees to Kam River are goalie Eric Vanska, defensemen Trystan Goodman and Brad Fortier and forwards Tyler Ralph, Christian Veneruzzo, Ethan Lang, Trenton Morriseau, Carson Gorst, Alex Enegren and Calvin Morrow.
Newcomers include seasoned junior hockey veterans acquired via summer trades with teams from other leagues, namely defenseman Zachary Fortin and forwards Brendan Murray and Elliot Parker.
Fortin was obtained from the Timmins Rock of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League. Besides having played parts of two seasons in Timmins, Fortin also has the experience of 68 games with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League.
Meanwhile, Murray was picked up by Kam River from the Yarmouth Mariners of the Maritime Hockey League. And Parker also came from the Maritimes, specifically the Campbellton Tigers.
Of note, Vanska, Fortier, Veneruzzo, Morriseau and Fortin are all Thunder Bay products.
To be sure, the outlook for the coming season is positive.
And Fighting Walleye part owner and general manager Kevin McCallum is looking forward to Kam River’s first full term in the SIJHL.
“We are extremely excited about the upcoming season,” McCallum told Hockey News North. “With so many eligible to return and the hard work of our hockey operations staff and scouting staff I am anticipating an extremely competitive (August) camp and pre season.”
McCallum added that he is of the notion that the Fighting Walleye is primed for a good run in 2021-2022 after posting a record of 3-1-0 during the abbreviated 2020-2021 regular season schedule.
“With our trades and players who have committed we believe we will be competitive in the league and push for a deep run. With the Dudley Hewitt Cup being hosted in our league it would be amazing to be able to attend,” McCallum said of the annual year end, Central Canada championship tournament that includes a host entry as well as champs from the SIJHL, the NOJHL and the Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
The SIJHL is poised to begin the 2021-2022 season with seven teams including Kam River.
The others are the Dryden Ice Dogs, Fort Frances Lakers, Red Lake Miners, Thunder Bay North Stars, Thief River Falls Norskies and Wisconsin Lumberjacks.
Thief River, which is based in Minnesota, and Wisconsin are the league’s two American-based teams.
And the Sioux Lookout Bombers are poised to join the SIJHL as an expansion team for the 2022-2023 season.