Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL) hockey made its return to Sioux Lookout last Saturday night as the Sioux Lookout Bombers (set to make their league debut next fall) hosted an exhibition game between the Thunder Bay North Stars and the Dryden GM Ice Dogs at The Hanger (Sioux Lookout Memorial Arena).
The North Stars and Ice Dogs played a physical, fast paced game before a packed house (375 spectators were in attendance), which concluded with the Ice Dogs winning 6-1. The lone North Stars goal was scored by Sioux Lookout’s own Dylan Bertrand. The 6’1, 165-pound defenseman said of playing before a hometown crowd, “It’s exciting. I never expected to be playing a junior game here, it’s a nice opportunity.”
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance dropped the puck at centre ice to ceremonially open the match.
“Welcome back SIJHL!,” he shared, commenting of the packed house, “I think the exhibition game coincided with loosening of restrictions at the right time. It just shows, I think, the hunger for people to get out, be together and do things and see good hockey.”
He added, “Congratulations to the organizers, it’s a hometown team being built from the ground up with lots of local support and I think getting behind the team and we’re ready for it, so can’t wait until next year.”
Lawrance was accompanied at centre ice by members of the Bomber’s board of directors, who sported home and away jerseys the Bombers will wear when they take to the nice next fall. Jerseys were available for sale at the game and some are available at bombersmerch.ca (https://bombersmerch.square.site/).
James Brohm, Bombers Director of Communications and Marketing, shared, “We’re well on our way to putting our team together. We’re sort of starting with the building blocks, the foundation so to speak, and this is a great opportunity for us to sort of see what goes on in the league as well and plot our course of action accordingly.”
He said of the exhibition match, “This is a league initiative that we ran with. They’re hoping to grow their brand and of course with the team coming next year, a little bit of a preview to what hockey fans are in store for in the future.”
He added, “It works out really well for us to have the Ice Dogs here because they will be our closest competitors next year in the league. Also, it was nice to have the Thunder Bay North Stars for a couple of reasons, first of all they are the top team in the league right now, so it’s great to have that, and secondly this is an opportunity for one of their players to come home and play in front of his hometown crowd.”
A group of Under 9 and a group of Under 7 hockey players from the Sioux Lookout Minor Hockey Association had an opportunity earlier in the day to spend an hour on the ice with the Ice Dogs and the North Stars for some player development.
Some of the kids had an opportunity to show off what they had learned during the first intermission.
Ryker Howard, 8, was one of the children who participated in the player development camp that day. He also got to show off his skill during first intermission that evening.
He said of the opportunity to learn from the North Stars, “It was super great!”
“He also told me he got to play with a right wing, and he’s a right wing as well,” Howard’s mom, Melanie Schofield shared. “I really like it. It made him a fan.”
The Bombers also recently unveiled new board signage at the arena. Brohm shared, “We were proud to give the Sioux Lookout Municipal Arena a nickname that’s fitting for our team, and The Hanger is the place to be…it will be the place to be all season long next year and beyond.”
Hockey fan Bruce George said, “It feels great to be back in the arena watching hockey. It’s really good caliber hockey, so it’s nice to see.”
He said of the exhibition game, “I think it’s great. They should bring more if they can.”
Adam Clark, who attended the game with his son Raleigh, agreed.
“It’s pretty exciting. It’s a good start for hopefully what’s to come next year. Looks like we’ve got a lot of community support here tonight and hopefully that’s something that continues on when we get our team.”
Another hockey fan in attendance for the match was Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa, who shared, “It’s good to see hockey again in Sioux Lookout, especially this caliber and I look forward to the season coming up next year when the Sioux Lookout Bombers begin to play here.”
He added, “It’s been just over a year and a half since we’ve been together in a place like an arena and I think this opening up recently from the province at sporting events, that’ good and it’s a good opportunity for families to get together and for kids to watch some hockey as well.”
Dryden GM Ice Dogs Assistant Coach Ben Borton shared, “This is a great environment tonight. Fans were great. Austen (Hoey, Bombers Director of Hockey Operations) and his crew here today put on a great show, and we were just happy to be a part of it.”
He said of the opportunity for Ice Dogs players to spend some time on the ice mentoring young hockey fans, “That’s always a great privilege for us to help out with the kids. We do a lot of that at home in Dryden, so just to help out this community with their minor hockey program is a great privilege.”
Thunder Bay North Stars Head Coach Rob DeGagne added, “It was a lot of fun. I think it’s important, the community, they came out earlier today to hockey practice, we had a great time with the kids and tonight was great, you filled the rink, it was awesome, you’re going to have a good franchise here.”
“I think the game was an overwhelming success in all aspects. We know we have work to do to make it even better for next season but we are very happy,” Brohm concluded.