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2014-08-26 at 14:04

Kings call it quits

By Leith Dunick,
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The hockey program that helped turn the Staal and Pyatt brothers into the stars they are today is shutting down its major midget team.

The Thunder Bay Kings AAA hockey program on Tuesday announced it won’t ice a major midget squad in 2014-15, citing too many other options for elite-level players.

Kings president Al Tennant, in a release issued to local media, said it’s time to focus on the future and on excellence and quality, rather than simply icing teams for historical reasons.

“The Thunder Bay Kings have a long history of winning provincial and national championships, of producing high-quality players and helping to shape and mould young men and women who have established themselves as leaders in our community,” Tennant said.

“The Kings organization has recognized the shift of late, with more and more players looking a prep school and junior-hockey options at the expense of major midget hockey. We have decided to invest our resources this year in our peewee, bantam and minor midget programs.”

Tennant went on to say they’re not ruling out the return of the major midget team down the road.

“We will assemble a progressive task force to look at how best to return our midget program to national prominence.”

The 1997 major midget Kings, who will be inducted next month into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, were the last Thunder Bay squad to win a national championship. The team also captured gold in 1995, winning silver in 1992 and 1996.

The Kings program was established 25 years ago by the late Jim Johnson. Alumni include Marc, Eric and Jordan Staal, Taylor and Tom Pyatt, Patrick Sharp, Haley Irwin, Robert Bortuzzo, Alex Auld and Greg and Ryan Johnson.

All except Irwin, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in women’s hockey, went on to lengthy NHL careers.

Tennant said the decision was made with the support of the entire organization’s board of directors.

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sawmillsteve says:
Maybe Al Tennant and the rest of the Kings staff should look in the mirror and ask themselves, why the shift of late? Why are skilled players going to Kenora?
Its a money grab and a long list of unqualified coaches that are forcing players to play elsewhere where they get there moneys worth.
This is a total embarassment and they should be ashamed of themselves for causing this mess!!!
8/26/2014 3:45:23 PM
Joey_J says:
The Major Midget team is not the Marquee team of the organization. The marquee team is the Minor midget team, which is the one scouted by the OHL. The best are gone by the time they get to the major midget program. What the Major program offered was exposure for potential scholarships, a role that can be filled by the North Stars and the SIJHL.
8/26/2014 3:59:37 PM
dynamiter says:
Come on Leith - the Major Midget Kings have not been a marquee team for almost 2 decades. Even the picture of the Staal brothers is kind of a misrepresentation - they both played for the Bantam AAA Kings and then were drafted to the OHL. It was in the mid 1990s when Dave Bragnalo first coached the team to the Air Canada Cup championship. A strong contingent of the Staals Pyatts etc help lead us to provincial Bantam titles. You could have garnered this from the Kings website.
8/26/2014 6:08:47 PM
hockeyday says:
You don't need a taskforce when you charge $9000-10000 to play in a garbage league and allow fathers to fill more coaching roles throughout the program as a personal platform too promote their own kid - voila this is what you get. Whats surprising is kings suggesting competition from junior a and other programs is the culprit here. Thunder Bay has one junior a team while Kenora Thistles drew over 50 kids to their midget AAA camp with a population of 15,000 competing against 3 junior a programs within 2 hours drive(Dryden, Ear Falls and Fort Frances). Don't pass the buck on this to lack of talent or competition because with 130,000 people we all know that's not the issue in Thunder Bay.
8/26/2014 7:08:14 PM
hahawhatajoke says:
It is a combination of a bunch of things. 1) parents, and children are well aware of how the Kings organization has worked over the past few decades.... Many quality, and skilled AAA players have been let go from Kings roster positions to make room for coaches kids, nephews, or relatives, and friends kids. Its well known that come try-outs, there is really only a few open positions to begin with. Knowing this kids are looking to other teams, where they actually have a true chance at a position. Teams such as Kenora, Dryden, or Hearst. Now this may have been the case in the past, but the difference was that those kids could really play! Now-a-days every parent believes their child can play AAA, and go all the way to the NHL. Hardly the case. Been following this organization for years and when viewing rosters, many of these kids are hardly AA let alone AAA calibre.
8/26/2014 10:14:46 PM
IceQueen says:
To: hahawhatajoke... Sounds like this is the same problem we all see at the Novice, Atom and PeeWee level too. Some organizations in town are allowing 3-4 parents to get together to coach teams and pick their own children and don't even look at some players who are more competent but don't have the right "connections." It's very frustrating to see kids making summer teams and AA teams, or just getting more ice time, over kids with no "in."
8/27/2014 10:03:05 AM
Tbnwo says:
This particular age group was notorious from IP all the way to present as having some of the most difficult parents/coaching parents. The 'elite players' as suggested above are part of clique that are less the welcoming to new players. There have been numerous issues with behaviour towards team mates. Guess what...the kids who know them DO NOT want to play with them. And, yes, that is why some very skilled players are looking elsewhere and not trying out for the Kings. That, coupled with many of the comments above, is a huge part is the Major Midget Kings problem. Sometimes what goes around comes around.
8/27/2014 6:40:39 PM
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