Midget AA Firehawks Hockey Team Moving To Sault And Going Junior

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Midget AA Firehawks hockey team moving to Sault and going Junior

The hockey market in Sault Ste. Marie Michigan just got a little more crowded.

The Great Lakes Junior Hockey League has granted approval to the Firehawks hockey club of St. Ignace to establish a Junior program in Sault Ste Marie beginning with the 2012-13 season.

The Firehawks junior program will be managed and operated by Doug and Paula Goudreau and coached by Sault native Joe Esson. The Firehawks are currently a Midget AA team, based in St. Ignace.

"We want to bring another successful team to Sault Ste. Marie," Esson said. "This will give local players another opportunity to develop. There is a void between the Soo Indians (Midget AAA) and Soo Eagles (Junior A)and we hope to fill that void."

The Firehawks will play their home games at the Big Bear Arena, and will try to work around schedules of other prominent area teams whenever possible.
Currently the Midget AA Firehawks have a roster which draws most of its players from the Sault and St. Ignace. Some of those players will likely play for the junior team. Assistant coaches Willie Soden and Matthew Parker are also from the Sault.

Tryout dates for the Junior A Firehawks will be announced in the upcoming months.

The GLJHL is a Tier III USA Hockey sanctioned program and will be beginning its fifth season in September of 2012. The league expects to have 12 teams split into two divisions. Six teams will be based in Michigan, and two teams each in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

"We are excited to bring our level to such a hockey enriched area with such an outstanding history of hockey development," GLJHL president Gerry Lullove said in a news release. We expect that the Firehawks will be competitive with the rest of the league as they begin their inaugural season this September 2012."

The Firehawks have sent players on to ACHA hockey over the past few seasons, and are known to attract many talented players locally. Having operated the team successfuly is going to be a critical factor in seeking USA Hockey expansion approval. This move from midget to junior would appear to strike right at the heart of the arguments between the USAH Youth and Junior Councils. This would on its face suggest that Junior Hockey is what players and parents prefer.

The potential roadblock will be the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association. MAHA has recently placed restrictions on the GLJHL Kalkaska Roughnecks in not allowing that team to sign sixteen year old players, this is by the way in direct conflict with USA Hockey rules regarding the ages for Junior players. Another potential road block could be an objection from the MAHA District 7 leadership as they could object to the potential loss of Midget aged players to the Junior team effecting the Soo Indians Midget AAA program.

To its credit the GLJHL has dramatically improved the level of talent throughout the league this year. Every team within the league has improved their on ice product, game attendance is on the rise, scouting of the league has improved through the development of relationships with higher level leagues, and college scouts outside of the ACHA are now taking notice. Strong arguments can be made that the GLJHL is at the very beginning stages of becoming one of the stronger Tier III development leagues in the Mid Western United States.

The Goudreau’s are solid operators, well known and active in the Michigan hockey community. The GLJHL has clearly landed a strong candidate for expansion, the question now rests with USA Hockey, and one would hope that the politics displayed in recent expansion efforts for all of Tier III will not improperly influence this GLJHL addition.

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