Eagles continue to generate excitement
Their season begins on Sept. 12, and the Soo Eagles are quietly becoming the talk of the town on the Michigan side of the International Bridge.
Season tickets for the 25 home games of the Eagles of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League are being purchased for the old-time price of $125 as fans seem eager to embrace a new franchise after paying little attention to the former Northern Michigan Black Bears in ’05-’06 and the erstwhile Soo Indians in ’06-’07.
“We’ve been running an aggressive marketing campaign and we seem to be attracting a lot of attention,” said Eagles’ marketing director Ritchie Donaghue, who played for the Soo Indians when they were a part of the now-defunct International Jr. B Hockey League during the mid 1970s.
It doesn’t hurt that the Eagles will be playing downtown in historic Pullar Stadium, which was built in 1939. The former Black Bear and Indian franchises both played out of Big Bear Arena on the outskirts of town and average attendance per game was in the range of 150 spectators.
The new Eagles are also pinning their hopes by having a “name coach” in Paul Theriault. The 58-year old Theriault is from the Soo and has coached with success in the Ontario Hockey League, European pro and North American minor pro.
Around the OHL
It’s being said within Ontario Hockey League circles that perhaps Soo Greyhounds’ general manager Dave Torrie shouldn’t have traded so much youth for experience last season when he exchanged younger forwards Sean Jones, Chris MacKinnon and Jordan Mayer for older skaters Anthony Peluso, Wayne Simmonds and Matt Caria.
I don’t agree.
First of all, the Greyhounds were “going for it” and the trades no doubt helped them get past the very-tough Guelph Storm and into the third round of last spring’s playoffs. Plus, don’t think for a moment that the players Torrie traded for weren’t all at the demanding request of since-departed coach Craig Hartsburg.
Personally, the only Greyhound acquisition from last season that I didn’t like was that of 19-year old goalie Stephane Cesar. All Cesar really did as a backup to workhorse overager Kyle Gajewski was to take valuable playing and practice time away from 16-year old Bryce O’Hagan. Again, though, Torrie was simply acting on a request from Hartsburg to add veteran goaltending depth. And now Cesar is gone. And so is Simmonds. So too is Hartsburg.
Maybe Hartsburg never was planning on coming back for the fifth season of his five-year deal with the Hounds. Which may be why he wanted to add older players and go on a long spring playoff run to end his latest Greyhound tenure in style. While I can’t say that I blame him for not turning down a chance to return to the NHL as the coach of the Ottawa Senators, Hartsburg probably had a job for life with the Greyhounds. Oh well. He left the Greyhounds on his own volition, twice now, and there should be no turning back.
...There’s another Beukeboom in the Ontario Hockey League. The Barrie Colts have hired Jeff Beukboom as their new assistant coach. The 43-year old Beukeboom, a first-round pick of the Greyhounds in 1982, later went on to play 15 seasons in the National Hockey League as a nasty defenseman. Interestingly, Beukeboom returns to the OHL and will be a rookie coach in Barrie in the same season that his son Brock will be a rookie defenseman in the Soo. Brock Beukeboom was the Greyhounds’ first round pick at this year’s OHL Draft.
...Blaine Smith has been promoted to president of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves. Smith, who has been with the Wolves for more than 20 years, had formerly been the team’s vice president. As the Wolves’ new president, Smith takes over that title from team owner Mark Burgess and will oversee all hockey and business operations
...In a related move, the Wolves have re-signed popular coach/general manager Mike Foligno to a new three-year contract. Foligno, a 1970s first-round NHL draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings, has already been with the Wolves for five years as coach and GM.