Anticipation. It is something that many junior hockey players are feeling ahead of a return to play this week from pause related to the Omicron variant. One such player is 20-year old forward Nakoda Thunderchief of the Dryden Ice Dogs of the Superior International Jr. Hockey League.
The 6-foot-2, 215 pound Thunderchief was acquired by Dryden in a multi-player deal with the Fort Frances Lakers at the January 10 Canadian Jr. Hockey League trade deadline.
And Thunderchief — who had three goals in just 10 games with last place Fort Frances in the 2021 segment of the season and was the Lakers team captain — is excitedly looking forward to the 2022 portion of the SIJHL campaign.
“It’s great to be back practising and a great feeling knowing that we will be back playing again this weekend,” the personable Thunderchief told Hockey News North. “It’s a new team for me with some great guys and I am looking forward to finishing up my last season of junior in Dryden.”
With size and strength to go with skill, Thunderchief said he welcomed the trade to Dryden while retaining good memories of parts of a few seasons in Fort Frances.
“Dryden fits my style of play and I really want to help the Ice Dogs win a championship,” relayed Thunderchief. “I really enjoyed playing in Fort Frances and was looking forward to trying to help the Lakers improve in the second half of the season.
“But it is a great feeling to be here in Dryden,” Thunderchief continued. “When I was told that the Ice Dogs were inquiring about me at the trade deadline it made feel like I wanted to go to Dryden and push myself to another level. (Head coach) Kurt (Walsten) knows what it takes to win in this league and I am expecting great things for us here in Dryden.”
Hailing from Stand Off, Alberta and Kainai First Nation, Thunderchief is a member of the Blackfoot Tribe. And he hopes to continue playing hockey beyond this season.
“We’ll see what happens with school … I am not ready to stop playing hockey and I will do what I need to do to try to reach my goal of eventually playing pro hockey,” Thunderchief said evenly. “Right now though, my focus is on helping Dryden to win a championship. Kurt knows how to hold players accountable and I have seen Dryden play and with the players they picked up along with me at the deadline I think we can make a good run.”
- Kam River, 45 points (22-3-1) 2. Red Lake, 34 points (16-3-2) 3. Thunder Bay, 33 points (15-7-3) 4. Dryden, 33 points (16-9-1) 5. Wisconsin, 18 points (8-18-2) 6. Thief River Falls, 11 points (5-15-1) 7. Fort Frances, 4 points (2-19-0). * Thief River Falls recently ceased operations for the remainder of the 2021-2022 season and plans to return for the 2022-2023 campaign. *