Thunder Bay a Great Hockey Town (Part 1: Minor Hockey)

By pbadmin
For all of you who don’t know Thunder Bay is located in Northwestern Ontario
at the head of Lake Superior. The Lakehead as it is occasionally called has
a population of approximately 113,000. Cities of note around Thunder Bay is
Winnipeg eight hours to the west, St. Paul eight hours to the South and
Sault Ste. Marie eight hours to the northeast.

Now that you know where this place is it time to hear about what it does
well: Play Hockey! Thunder Bay has a good minor hockey system with two
associations managing hockey from Novice to Minor Pee Wee. Lakehead South
and Port Arthur Minor both have AA teams and house league teams at each age.
Once players get to Bantam and Midget age you go into a city wide draft
organized by Thunder Bay Minor Hockey. At Bantam there is house league,
single A and AA, in Midget there is only single A and AA. These teams are
usually very competitive in out of town tournaments. The Midget AA Fort
William Hurricanes captured the Ontario Winter Games Gold Medal in 1998 in
Peterbourgh.

The pride of the towns hockey program has to be the Thunder Bay Kings AAA
program. It consists of three teams at Pee Wee, Bantam and Midget levels.
The Pee Wee program plays in the Ontario Provincial Championships each year
after playing 28 games in the Bantam AA league. This helps to get the kids
AAA experience and develop their skills for the Bantam program. The Bantam
Kings are currently the crown jewel of the Kings Program with three Kobe Cup
Championships (Ontario Bantam AAA Champs) in 1999,1997 and 1994 along with a
silver in 1996 and bronze in 1998. The Bantams play 28 game regular season
in the Midget AA league along with various tournaments in North
America. The Bantams have produced many great prospects including 1999 first
round pick (Islanders 8th overall) Taylor Pyatt, Panthers 1999 draft pick
goalie Alex Auld, Blackhawks 5th round pick defenceman Mike Jacobsen, 1998
7th round pick of the Penguins Joel Sherban and Sabers farm team player
Jeremy Adduno.

The Midget Kings have captured two Air Canada Cups (national Midget AAA
Champs) in 1997 and 1995. Along with two second place finishes in 1996 and
1992. The Midget Kings play in the Thunder Bay Junior B League and in
various tournaments across North America. The Midget Kings have produced
many great players, two former Canadian
World Junior team gold medal winners in current Coyotes player Trevor
Letowski and Predators forward Greg Johnson. Along with Ryan Johnson of the
Florida Panthers and Brent Peterson who spent time with Tampa Bay over the
last few seasons. Other Midget Kings alumni include Hurricanes first round
pick in 1998 Jeff Heerema and Coyotes third
round pick in 1999 Jason Jaspers.

The Kings program have had 29 players graduate to Major Junior Hockey mainly
in the OHL. Look for this number to increase with many players drafted off
last years Bantam team in the first ever OHL Bantam draft. Along with 37
players playing NCAA Hockey mainly on scholarships to division one schools.
There is probably not many AAA
programs in North America with these kind of figures especially only when
about 50 kids play for the Kings Organization each year. Look for the second
part of the Thunder Bay
Series: Junior Hockey.

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