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By Dryden Observer Staff
The Superior International Junior Hockey League announced Friday that it has awarded a conditional expansion franchise to Thief River Falls, Minn., which once confirmed, would begin play in the 2016-17 season.
The SIJHL’s board of governors voted unanimously to award the franchise, contingent on approval by Hockey Canada and the Canadian Junior Hockey League as well as an arena lease agreement between TRF Junior Hockey LLC and the City of Thief River Falls.
The franchise already received formal approval from USA Hockey during its annual winter meeting on Jan. 15 in Orlando, Fla.
The expansion team will play out of the 3,593-seat Ralph Englestad Arena in Thief River Falls, a community of 8,700 located in northwestern Minnesota, less than an hour from the North Dakota border.
“We are extremely excited to bring Junior A hockey to the great community of Thief River Falls and the beautiful Ralph Engelstad Arena”, stated SIJHL Commissioner Bryan Graham. “The franchise has a solid ownership group made up of some very familiar names to hockey fans of Thief River Falls and the surrounding area.”
The ownership group consists of former Ice Dogs Trainer Kevin McCallum of Thunder Bay, Ont., Dave Beito, President of Northern State Bank, Tim Berglund, former NHL player and current head coach of TRF High School boys’ hockey team as well as local businessman and former WCHA official Tom Goddard. A fifth member of the ownership group is expected to be announced at a later date.
“Myself and my fiancé Natalee Maxwell are very excited for this opportunity to be involved with such a great ownership group and we look forward to being members of the SIJHL for many years to come,” said McCallum. “We believe we have a great city and arena that will be a diamond in the league. Commissioner Graham has worked hard to improve the league both on and off the ice and I hope hockey fans in northwestern Ontario and northern Minnesota take notice with their support of their local junior programs.”
Thief River Falls is set to become the second SIJHL franchise in the state, joining the Minnesota Iron Rangers, who are based out of Hoyt Lakes.