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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