Ice Edge Holdings and Thunder Bay – “This is not a ‘done deal’, but there are more positives than negative”

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THUNDER BAY – Today it was my pleasure to attend the press conference at the Fort William Gardens in which Ice Edge Holdings Inc. announced its plan to bring an ECHL team to Thunder Bay.

This is not a “done deal,” but there are more positives than negatives.

On the negative side, the financing is complex and has yet to be fully and firmly determined. Public/private shares in the franchise, building a new rink [or Thunder Bay multicomplex facility (a contingency)], player salaries, ticket prices, travel costs, and so on. Also, will the City have an adequate fan base, considering all of the diverse hockey that is currently ongoing–from tiny youth leagues to Varsity level?

A meeting, in the future, of Ice Edge with Lakehead University would be an excellent idea.

On the positive side, the Ice Edge group has money, and excellent leadership in the likes of Keith McCullough, a former Captain of the Yale University varsity hockey team and a very successful New York hedgefunds’ company executive, and Anthony LeBlanc, a very experienced business and sports executive and, quite recently, a winner of a prestigious Lakehead University Young Alumni Award.

Both grew up in Thunder Bay. Ice Edge also has going for it the fact that the ECHL Commissioner, Brian McKenna (in the City today), knows Thunder Bay and its high-level hockey potential in that he was part of the champion Thunder Bay Senators, the farm team to the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, when that franchise operated here several years ago.

Thunder Bay hockey has a history of always landing on its feet.
Leagues, teams, coaches, and players come and go, but hockey perseveres. The Port Arthur Bearcats, The Fort William Canadians, the Port Arthur Marrs, the Thunder Bay Twins, the Thunder Bay Flyers, the Thunder Bay Kings, the Thunder Bay Queens, the Fort William North Stars, Allan Cups, Colonial Cups, World Juniors, the Women’s and Men’s Canadian Olympic teams, NHL team Captains, NHL Player Awards, Stanley Cup rings–rich history, on and on. An ECHL team here could keep at home older, talented players who now go overseas or elsewhere.
Hats off to Ice Edge! Keith and Anthony are to be admired for their passion and determination. It is encouraging that attending their press conference on Monday afternoon were representatives of virtually all of the hockey interests in Thunder Bay, including the media–a wonderful show of support. Ice Edge is willing to learn and Anthony and Keith represent the “never-say-die” spirit of Thunder Bay hockey in an era in which Canada’s proven, deserved reputation as the developer of top ice hockey players is being threatened by countries such as the United States, and loyalty within sport increasingly is more difficult to find.
Doug Thom
Professor Douglas Thom is a noted writer, having produced The Hockey Bibliography, and several other publications on hockey. He is also the founder of the Global Conscience Circle, and supporter of new ideas and youth in Thunder Bay.
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