June 16, 2023
The Superior International Junior Hockey League is today formally announcing it’s newest member, the Kenora Islanders Junior A Hockey Club.
Having previously been granted membership in the SIJHL and Hockey Northwestern Ontario, the country’s newest Junior A franchise is making the necessary steps to begin play for the start of the 2023-24 season.
It will be the first time since the former Kenora Thistles Junior A hockey club ceased operations in 1982 that the Kenora area had a team to call its own. Former Fort Frances Lakers bench boss Dave Allison, his brother Mike, Ted Nolan and Charlie Simmer are notable names to have toiled for the Kenora side in that incarnation.
The team is owned and operated by Kenora resident Jack Dawson. Longtime minor hockey board member and former President of Lake of the Woods Minor Hockey Tim Gosnell will serve as the club’s first ever President.
Dawson chose the Islanders to be the team’s nickname, in deference to the thousands of islands that dot the renowned Lake of the Woods and contributed to the lake’s 65,000 miles of shoreline.
“It was suggested to me by a longtime friend, Trevor Iserhoff and resonated with me immediately. It’s one of the things the area is well-known for,” said Dawson. “We’re grateful to live on the big lake. It drives the recreation and economic engines of our part of the province and was an obvious choice as the identity of our team.”
Another obvious choice would have been the Thistles which served as the nickname for the famous 1907 Stanley Cup champions, the city’s last Junior A club and currently synonymous with AAA minor hockey in Kenora.
“We thought about that, for sure,” continued Dawson. “But in the end, that’s their brand. They’ve worked hard and have done a great job of making it their own. And we intend to do the same with our brand, while working to support the Thistles and the entire minor hockey community in Kenora.”
SIJHL Commissioner Darrin Nicholas is ecstatic to be preparing to begin play in the most-western part of the province.
“It’s no secret that the Kenora market has been a glaring omission from the SIJHL’s footprint since the league’s inception. It’s actually a bit of a surreal experience to finally be on the precipice of dropping the puck. Full credit to Jack Dawson and his team for their commitment, vision and perseverance in getting it to this point. Our Board of Governors couldn’t be happier to welcome the Islanders to the SIJHL,” commented Nicholas.
It will be a busy summer for Dawson and crew. Their regular-season debut is just under 100 days away.
“There’s so much to do, but we’ve been working hard behind the scenes and things are starting to fall into place. We’re finalizing an agreement for our coach as we speak. Our team bus will be picked up and brought to Kenora shortly. Equipment and uniforms are ordered. It’s an exciting time.”
Of the well-publicized ice-time issues that have plagued previous attempts to reestablish junior hockey in Kenora and surfaced recently for the Islanders, Dawson is confident there is a solution in the making.
“We’re still very-much in that process,” he said. “We’ve had some encouraging and productive communications with Kenora elected officials and administration that are ongoing.”
Dawson clarified: “It’s not an ‘all-or-nothing’ proposition. We’re optimistic we’ll be able to demonstrate an ability to play at least some of our schedule out of the Moncrief Construction Sports Centre in Kenora without any disruption to other user groups as we work towards a full schedule there in time for the 2024-25 season. In the meantime, we’ve been humbled by the support we’ve received from nearby communities such as Vermillion Bay. We have an open invitation from the elected officials there to play at their Woodland Arena for which we’re grateful.”
The SIJHL is a member of the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) and is entering it’s 22nd season of competition in 2023. There are eight member clubs (Dryden GM Ice Dogs, Fort Frances Lakers, Kam River Fighting Walleye, Kenora Islanders, Red Lake Miners, Sioux Lookout Bombers, Thunder Bay North Stars and Wisconsin Lumberjacks). Member teams compete annually for the Bill Salonen Cup awarded each spring to the league’s playoff champion, who then represents the SIJHL at the Centennial Cup National Championship Tournament.
Jack Dawson, Kenora Islanders, ph 807-464-0408, firstname.lastname@example.org
Darrin Nicholas, SIJHL Commissioner, ph 807-472-7228, email@example.com