The 2020-21 season will also mark the first complete season for the expansion Kam River Fighting Walleye after their pandemic-shortened debut season in 20-21 season.
That first season of the SIJHL back in 2001-02 saw the league begin with five teams.
Those clubs were the Dryden Ice Dogs, who are still in operation today, the Thunder Bay Wolves (now the Thunder Bay North Stars, the Featherman Hawks, the Borderland Thunder from Fort Frances, and the Thunder Bay Bulldogs.
In its first 19 years, SIJHL teams have won two Dudley-Hewitt Cups, emblematic of Central Canadian Jr. A champions.
In 2006, the Fort William North Stars won the Dudley Hewitt Cup with a 7-6 overtime win over the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Sudbury Jr. Wolves at the Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Among the notable players on that North Stars roster included current NHLers in goaltender Carter Hutton and defenceman Robert Bortuzzo.
Hutton, now a member of the Arizona Coyotes, lead all NHL netminders in both goals-against average and save percentage in 2017-18 while with the St. Louis Blues.
As for Bortuzzo, he remains on the Blues roster having set personal bests in ice time in 2017-18, and was a member of the 2019 Stanley Cup championship team.
After winning the DHC, Fort William advanced to the then Royal Bank Cup in Brampton, Ont.
There they would advance to the semifinals where they fell 3-2 in overtime to the eventual champion Burnaby Express (BCHL).
Back in 2012-13 the Minnesota Wilderness under head coach and general manager Rod Aldoff won their third consecutive Bill Salonen Cup SIJHL championship.
Advancing to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup in North Bay, Ont., the Wilderness finished in top spot in the round robin and would go on to defeat the St. Michael’s Buzzers (OJHL) in OT to capture the league’s second DHC title.
They too would advance to the RBC Cup in Summerside, P.E.I. where they fell in extra time in semifinal action to the Brooks Bandits (AJHL), who went on to win the national Jr. A championship.
Over the years six SIJHL clubs advanced to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup finals only to fall in the title game.
The teams were Dryden Ice Dogs (2002); Schreiber Diesels (2007); Fort William North Stars (2009 & 2010); Fort Frances Lakers (2015) and the Dryden GM Ice Dogs (2018).
HOCKEY DAY IN CANADA
The SIJHL and two of its member clubs, the then English River (now Red Lake) Miners and the Fort Frances Lakers were featured as part of the Hockey Day in Canada festivities in Kenora, Ont., back in February of 2017.
Included was a post-game photo of the two teams along with Hockey Night in Canada personalities Don Cherry and Ron MacLean.
Darrin Nicholas (2020-Present)
Bryan Graham (2014-2020)
Ron Whitehead (2005-2014)
Harvey Fedell (2003-2005)
J.P. Heino (2002-2003)
Jerry Blazino (2001-02)
FORMER INTER-LEAGUE TEAMS
Iron Range Yellow Jackets (2001-02)
Minot State University – Bottineau Lumberjacks (2005-06)
Northwest Wisconsin Knights (2001-03)
2001-02: Dryden Ice Dogs
2002-03: Borderland Thunder (Fort Frances)
2003-04: Fort William North Stars
2004-05: Fort William North Stars