THUNDER BAY – Mike Simeoni is looking forward to just being an ordinary fan with the return of the Border Battle.
“I’m really looking forward to getting out to the games, spending time at the rink and just watching hockey as compared to having to prepare a team and focus on coaching. I’m excited to just be a fan this year,” Simeoni said.
Simeoni was the head coach of the Kings entry last season, who won the consolation final over the Hermantown Hawks 2-1.
He holds the role of tournament chair with the second edition of the event scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 15 until Sunday, Feb. 18 at the Tournament Centre.
Simeoni said the idea to create the tournament came from a desire to get some competitive hockey for the Kings in front of friends and family.
“I connected with a team in Minnesota, the Edina Hornets, who have a great program and were instrumental in recruiting the other American teams that ended up playing in the first event,” added Simeoni.
“Once we had them, I was able to go out and connect with other teams in Northwestern Ontario, like the Soo Junior Greyhounds and the Pilot Mound Buffaloes in Manitoba, just to round out the number of participants for that first year.”
Simeoni mentioned that there was also a focus on an enhanced experience for everyone involved.
“We needed to be different and offer the players and their families something special if we wanted this tournament to be sustainable and an annual event on their hockey calendar,” he noted.
“That’s where we got the idea of creating an in-game experience, just like you would see at the professional level, and that really resonated with everyone. It was a lot of work in year one, but we pulled it off.”
The Edina Hornets won the inaugural event with a 5-3 victory over the Soo Jr Greyhounds while the Pilot Mound Buffaloes skated past the Minnetonka Skippers 5-4 in the fifth versus sixth place contest.
The Canadian teams participating this year include the host Under-15 AAA Kings along with the returning Greyhounds and Buffaloes. The Rink Hockey Academy out of Winnipeg is the newest team to join.
The American teams that will skate include the defending champion Hornets along with the Hawks and Skippers while the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks will make their debut.
“Obviously the timing isn’t ideal, but this is a weekend that we started with last year,” Simeoni mentioned when he was asked about the event coinciding with the beginning of the Ontario Winter Games.
“The weekend seemed to work really well for all of the participating teams, especially our Kings team, given that the GTHL schedule will be winding down by then.”
“The hockey portion of the Ontario Winter Games is set for the following weekend, so we’re hoping that all the local hockey fans still manage to get out to the tournament to support the players and the teams and take in some good hockey.”
Each team will play five games for a total of twenty games over the course of four days.
Simeoni stressed that staying at the Tournament Centre for year two was the ideal choice.
“The teams have their own dressing room for the weekend, which is very attractive for the teams travelling in. It gives the players a feeling like they are playing in the professional level; the dressing rooms are well set up well, each player has their own stall and name plate,” Simeoni said.
“The other thing is the size of the venue and what it offers. You can get between 400 and 500 people in there, which can create a buzz on and off the ice for everyone involved.”
Joe Newhouse is the head coach of the host Kings, and Simeoni is looking forward to seeing his team compete.
“Joe has a great group of young coaches who are enthusiastic, passionate, and know their stuff. It’s a hardworking team that has beaten some of the top teams in the GTHL this season. I’m sure those players are excited to play in front of their home crowd and will make everyone proud.”
Admission to all games is free of charge
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 15TH
Hermantown Hawks vs. Thunder Bay Kings 4:00pm
Grand Rapids Thunderhawks vs. Rink Hockey Academy 6:00pm
Minnetonka Skippers vs. Soo Jr Greyhounds 8:00pm
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 16TH
Edina Hornets vs. Pilot Mound Buffaloes 8:30am
Rink Hockey Academy vs. Hermantown Hawks 10:30am
Soo Jr Greyhounds vs. Grand Rapids Thunderhawks 12:30pm
Pilot Mound Buffaloes vs. Minnetonka Skippers 2:30pm
Rink Hockey Academy vs. Edina Hornets 4:30pm
Hermantown Hawks vs. Soo Jr Greyhounds 6:30pm
Minnetonka Skippers vs. Thunder Bay Kings 8:30pm
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 17TH
Hermantown Hawks vs. Pilot Mound Buffaloes 9:30am
Grand Rapids Thunderhawks vs. Thunder Bay Kings 11:30am
Soo Jr Greyhounds vs. Edina Hornets 1:30pm
Minnetonka Skippers vs. Rink Hockey Academy 3:30pm
Pilot Mound Buffaloes vs. Grand Rapids Thunderhawks 5:30pm
Edina Hornets vs. Thunder Bay Kings 7:30pm
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 18TH
CAN 4th Place vs. USA 4th Place 8:30am
CAN 3rd Place vs. USA 3rd Place 10:30am
CAN 2nd Place vs. USA 2nd Place 12:30pm
CAN 1st Place vs. USA 1st Place 2:30pm