As the summer winds down the 5th season is about to start, that’s right the hockey season, and of course we can’t forget about our Sault Thunderbirds. The Sault Thunderbirds are a local hockey team that play in the Northern Jr. Hockey league or the NOJHL for short. With the season fast approaching I had the opportunity to sit down with the T-Birds head coach and general manager Jamie Henderson.
Jamie and I start off by talking about what his expectations are for the season. ” It’s just exciting to be planning a regular hockey season,” Jamie explained. “For the players first and foremost they are just excited to be playing regular hockey this year. ” Last season was a very different season, with the Thunderbirds mostly playing the Blind River Beavers due to Covid 19 restrictions. The NOJHL did a great job however getting these players much needed ice time, even replacing the playoffs with the “Covid Cup”.
As Jamie and I talked about having a regular hockey season one big question was on my mind and I’m sure it was also on yours, Is body checking making a comeback this season? ” Hockey is going back to normal” Jamie said with a sigh of relief. ” It will be an adjustment for the players.” The main reason why this will be a big adjustment is because last year there were penalties called for body checking. Hockey is normally a very physical sport. It was a huge adjustment last year for the players not to hit, and will also be a big adjustment to go back to full body contact. Jamie and I continued on the conversation on why it is so important to have contact back at the NOJHL level. ” Part of what we are doing here with this league is trying to prepare players for the next level. We’re trying to prepare players for college, the OHL and any other major jr. league.”
With the NOJHL and the Thunderbirds being a stepping stone into the next level of professional sports I wanted to take a deeper dive into how playing for a team, like the T-birds, can help players move forward. Jamie explains that playing in the NOJHL and the T-Birds give young players the chance to play hockey at a competitive level. Jamie also wanted to remind everyone that all teams have a great coaching staff, not just the T-Birds. Playing competitive hockey and working with great coaches are key components to making that jump to the next level in a young athlete’s career.
Another thing that the NOJHL and the Thunderbirds focus on is education, Jamie explained. ” A big part of what we do is the education side. We are fortunate here with the Thunderbirds having two great institutions like Sault College and Algoma University where they can be student athletes.” Jamie went into further details on why it is so important for these players to get an education, as much as it is important to focus on life on and off the ice. It’s great for young players to see players that have been through the T-Birds program, and have had great success. It gives the players the motivation to put in the effort on and off the ice.
To wrap this interview up another question that was on everyone’s mind is will fans be allowed back in the building to cheer on the Thunderbirds? Jamie was happy to tell me that fans will be allowed back in the arena to cheer on the Thunderbirds. However, there will still be rules that need to be followed. All fans, players and coaching staff must be double vaccinated to enter and play. This was a decision made to keep everyone safe and have a normal feeling hockey season once again.
The season is set to start on Friday September 17th and the teams first home game will be on Friday September 24th, so let’s get ready to cheer on some hometown heroes. Thank you for choosing SaultOnline and ONN TV for all your local, national and international sports news and updates.