Long knows as the Vikings, the junior hockey franchise in Elliot Lake became the Wildcats - and now the Red Wings.
Returning to the NOJHL (Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League) prior to the 2014-2015 season, team officials opted to start fresh, bypassing the monikor that had dated back to the 1970s or so.
After taking a one year leave of absence (2020-2021) in order to deal with the effects of the global pandemic, the team has decided to start fresh, once again, rebranding as the Elliot Lake Red Wings.
To be honest, an entirely new look is kind of the theme to this return. The Elliot Lake organization has reached an agreement with Paul Noad, who will serve as head coach and oversee the team operations of the squad that will now sport red and white as their main team colours.
Additionally, Elliot Lake team president Len Kutchaw has named John Buchanan as the new Red Wings general manager.
"As an organization, we are very excited to bring Paul and his organization on board to manage our operations for the upcoming season," said Kutchaw. "Paul has a wealth of hockey experience both as a player and in management, and the team will also benefit from his extensive business background."
While there still remains some uncertainty regarding the launch of the 2021-2022 campaign in the fall, folks in Elliot Lake are clearly excited to be back on board, if and when junior hockey is played again in the north.
"It was a difficult decision to make (to take the Leave of Absence), but we felt it was in the best interest of the players, the parents, the fans and the organization. Coming back this year we felt it was important that we give the team a fresh start."
NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca lauded the efforts of the franchise in their restructuring. "Kudos to the entire Elliot Lake franchise on their rebranding as part of their return to the league," he said.
"Persevering through a very difficult time, which we all continue to deal with on a daily basis, many thanks go to Len Kutchaw and their entire organization. We look forward to seeing the Red Wings in action in the months ahead."
In other recent NOJHL news, there is an air of familiarity returning to the league by way of the Powassan Voodoos.
Two-time league champion coach Marc Lafleur was welcomed back to the fold, signing on as the new head coach of the Voodoos after spending the 2020-2021 COVID-19 shortened season with the Carleton Place Canadians of the CCHL.
"I am very happy to be joining the Voodoos organization," said Lafleur. "I've known Jim Bruce (Powassan President) and Chris Dawson for quite a few years and I know they are committed to excellence and committed to success and I am very happy to be surrounded by those types of people."
Bringing Lafleur aboard to replace Max Gavin, who left the team in August of 2020, GM Dawson is dealing with very much a known entity. "Marc has always been known as one of the best, most prepared coaches in the NOJHL," said Dawson.
"He is knowledgeable, respected and we always - even going back to my years with the Jr. Trappers - had to go through a Lafleur coached team to win a championship."
There is no denying the pedigree of the new Powassan bench boss. Lafleur has served as the General Manager and Head Coach of the Hearst Lumberjacks, where he captured an NOJHL championship in 2019 and advanced to the Dudley Hewitt Cup final.
He held the same roles with the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners for five seasons, capturing an NOJHL banner in 2014. During his time in the league, Lafleur has served as an assistant coach for Team Canada East at the World Junior 'A' Challenge on four consecutive occasions (2013, 14', 15' and 16'), winning a silver medal in 2016.
Prior to working at the Junior 'A' level, the native of Hearst spent time as an assistant coach with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QJMHL)and in the NCAA. Before coaching, Lafleur played Division I hockey at Bemidji State University while earning a master's degree in education and sport studies.