Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Soo Indians gearing up for season

The new Soo Indians held their first pow wow recently in the form of an invite camp that drew close to 50 hopefuls from across the USA plus a handful from the Canadian Soo area.

Formerly the Northern Michigan Black Bears, the Soo Indians are now under the ownership of Long Island, N.Y. land developer Charles Perdicaro, who finalized the purchase of the NOJHL franchise from a group of Upper Peninsula investors earlier this month.

Unlike the former owners, Perdicaro has a hockey background that includes being the former owner and general manager of a minor pro team in Florida.

Away from the rink, Perdicaro has assembled a marketing/public relations staff that has been busy doing damage control in the wake of the failed Black Bears’ ownership that did little to make an impression among fans, business people and the media in the Michigan Soo.

Thus, after three years of operation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — two in St. Ignace and one in the Soo — the Black Bears are no more, having given way to Perdicaro, who was quick to return to the town’s hockey roots by renaming the franchise the Soo Indians.

The Indians will continue to play their home games at Big Bear Arena and Perdicaro was able to secure Kewadin Casinos as a major corporate sponsor though the new owner acknowledged that his marketing and public relations people “are working hard trying to get fans and the small business community on board.”

Perdicaro has already announced that season tickets for the Indians 24 home games can be purchased at the Big Bear Arena Pro Shop for $100 — the lowest price in the NOJHL.

On ice, coach/general manager Jim Capy, an NOJHL mainstay who’s coached with considerable success over six previous seasons — four with the Soo Thunderbirds and two with the Blind River Beavers — oversaw the weekend camp with associate coach Don Gagnon, goalie coach Dave Murphy and chief scout Jim Yardanoff alongside.

Capy (Ferris State), Gagnon (Lake Superior State) and Murphy (North Dakota) are all former NCAA Division I players and all have Twin Soo hockey roots. In fact, both Capy and Gagnon previously coached AAA midget teams in the Michigan Soo.

The chatty, personable Perdicaro was also in town for the invite camp.

Last weekend’s camp drew an array of talent from throughout the USA with among the more impressive rookie performers being goalie Brennan Poderzay from Minnesota, defenceman Billy Horton and forward Michael Connolly, both from the New York area, and forward Darren Mansfield, a Michigan Soo product.

While an injury kept veteran defenceman Chase Stevens from attending the camp, returning blueliners J.D. King, Dan Klever and Sean Reid all stood out.

Though some of returning forwards had less than standout camps, both Sean Farley and Isaac Viau played with passion and goalie Elliott Hogue got better as the camp progressed.

Two forwards who played for Capy at Blind River last season — Jake Reid and Nick Zilka — had permission to skate at the Indians’ camp, leaving Capy to try to work out a deal with Beavers’ GM Don Lees for the pair.

The Indians will assemble again on Sept. 1 for their main camp and have a pair of exhibition games scheduled with the Traverse City North Stars of the North American Hockey League before opening the NOJHL regular season at home on Fri. Sept. 15.

Many thanks to Randy Russon and Osprey Media.

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