The Reality Facing The Soo Eagles Move To The NAHL

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The Reality Facing the Soo Eagles move to the NAHL

Much has been made of the Soo Eagles purchase of the Traverse City North Stars and the moving of the NAHL franchise to Soo Michigan. Some assume that this is just a simple relocation, the smart money says it is not as simple as it would seem.

The current roster of Traverse City Players will transfer to the Eagles now. The Eagles will also attempt to recruit its top NOJHL players to stay with the team. All while holding tryouts to search for new talent.

Only three TC players being inherited by the Eagles are aging out of junior. Seven of the twenty two that finished the Eagles season in the NOJHL will age out. This effectively leaves the Eagles with nearly forty returning players.

Take into account the NAHL annual draft, free agents, tenders, and you can see the Eagles will have a lot of hard decisions to make when assembling their team. Hard decisions are good to have for hockey people, it forces the coaches to do their very best in evaluating players, and in this type of league change, the Eagles can not afford to allow any politics into the decision making process.

Bruno Bragagnolo is an excellent coach, and has not had any trouble recruiting players to the Soo the last two seasons. Another factor playing into recruiting this season will be location. The closest rival to the Soo will be the Michigan Warriors, roughly five hours away. This is a dramatic change for the Eagles who until this time had a rival across the border only twenty minutes away. Trips to Port Huron, Kalamazoo, Jamestown, possibly Johnstown and Chicago will wear on the team throughout the season. Can Bragagnolo over come that in his recruiting pitch to players?

How will the Eagles staff cut players with NAHL and NOJHL experience? Many good players will hit the free agent market from this team, making other teams stronger in the interim. Will the Eagles work with other junior teams in the area and help develop players through a system? Can age and experience be balanced with youth and development through this massive turn over while not sacrificing wins?

Loosing the T-Birds as a rival will cause some marketing efforts to change as well. The Eagles can no longer count on a few hundred fans to make the trip to Soo Michigan from Soo Ontario for those games. This will reflect in ticket sales, beer sales, 50/50 and other income generating efforts. Although new teams visiting Pullar can be counted on to boost initial interest level in the team, maintaining that high level will take some effort.

A massive undertaking at Pullar this summer to be sure, and no time off can be seen for Eagles staff any time soon. As the North Stars franchise says goodbye to hockey, the Eagles say hello to the NAHL. Enjoy the ride hockey fans.

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