January 31, 2022
Thunder Bay, Ontario
For Immediate Release
The Superior International Junior Hockey League is announcing today that the Thief River Falls Norskies will pause operations for the remainder of the 21-22 season effective immediately.
On the decision, SIJHL Commissioner Darrin Nicholas commented:
“It’s never a good day to have to announce news such as this. I feel for the players, staff, team administrators and the faithful Norskie fans in Thief River Falls. The “Mini Ralph” remains one of the best junior A hockey buildings in the continent. The SIJHL fully intends to be dropping the puck for another season of Norskie hockey in the fall and will work tirelessly to see that transpire.”
An issue that the Norskies struggled with since the outset of the campaign – a shortage of players – is ultimately what led to the decision.
“It’s been no secret that the club has been playing with a very short bench all season long. In some contests they were barely able to ice the minimum roster to even play,” Nicholas continued.
“We were optimistic that the team may have turned a corner over the Christmas break with some new player commitments, only to have its legs cut from underneath it when the Province of Ontario announced the lockdown earlier this month.”
The announcement of the pause in organized sports in Ontario effective January 5th – and just lifted today – rang eerily similar to an announcement made last season of what also was to be a temporary pause, and eventually was extended long enough to force the cancellation of the rest of the 20-21 season.
The uncertainty as to whether the league and club was going to be allowed to complete the season proved an insurmountable hurdle to not only recruiting players to bolster the lineup, but to even retain players that had suited up in the early part of the season.
“I want to specifically acknowledge the character of the young men that hung in with the Norskies right until the end. The loyalty you have shown your teammates, the Norskies fans and the city of Thief River Falls is admirable, and a quality that will serve you well in your post-hockey endeavors,” Nicholas commented.
Nicholas added that the time to do a deeper dive into the circumstances that led to this situation will come in due time.
“Of course, we want to understand how the club ended up in the position it did. We have another US-based team in our league (Wisconsin Lumberjacks), plus there are US members of other CJHL leagues that faced very similar challenges yet managed to emerge with much different outcomes. So, it would be foolish to suggest there are no lessons to be learned, but our immediate priority is to facilitate these young athletes finding a home for the remainder of the season.”
The now six-team SIJHL regular season will resume on Friday February 4th. The full schedule will be released in the coming days.
The pausing of the Norskies will likely necessitate a modification of the league’s initially planned playoff format, which will also be announced separately.
Darrin Nicholas, SIJHL Commissioner