Shift of landscape sends the Soo Eagles to New Jersey
May 5, 2015
The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced that the Board of Governors has approved the relocation of the Soo Eagles membership in the NAHL to Middletown, New Jersey beginning in the 2015-16 season. The team will adopt the name New Jersey Junior Titans and play in their current facility, the Middletown Ice World Arena.
“We have seen our footprint in the North Division slowly migrate to other areas that became increasingly further from Sault Ste. Marie are and were left with no opponents within a reasonable traveling distance to the upper peninsula of Michigan. As a result, the NAHL recently opened up a discussion with us about a new opportunity that existed in New Jersey that is going to be a part of new growth of the league in the east,” said Ron Lavin, principal owner and governor of the Eagles. “"While the past two months have been filled with many details, emotions and recent league approvals surrounding a decision like this, it reflects the current footprint that has evolved in the North Division.”
“Everyone in the Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan has been tremendous to our organization and are grateful for their support. We have the best volunteers and community support and it is our mission to continue to have a junior team with local ownership under the Soo Eagles name in a different Canadian junior league,” Lavin continued. "The Titans have a great history and new arena and sports complex to go with it. Their youth organization in the NAPHL and Tier III junior players will make a great compliment to our organization. Bringing the NAHL to New Jersey will introduce players and fans to a whole new experience and level of hockey.”
“Since their arrival in the NAHL, the Soo Eagles organization has done a wonderful job on and off the ice and has a great track record of developing players for the next level, and that is something that we expect to continue in New Jersey,” said NAHL Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. “Middletown will be inheriting a very successful franchise with solid and committed ownership. We feel this move to the east was a necessary one and a reflection of the current changing landscape of the NAHL and it provides the team with the best option to be successful moving forward. We are confident that with the commitment of the ownership, the quality of the coaching and the state-of-the-art venue will allow the team every opportunity for success.”
The Middletown Ice World Arena is a single-sheet facility that currently seats approximately 1,550, which is inclusive of four private boxes, a party room overlooking the rink, a bar rail, table tops in the end zone and mezzanine seating at one end of the building. The venue is also home to the New Jersey Jr. Titans. The Titans are members of the NAPHL and their hockey program’s contains over 400 participants. The NAHL team will also enjoy a dedicated locker room, office and training space.
Vinnie Dicks, Jr. Titans Hockey President said, "Ron and Head Coach Bruno Bragagnolo are great for the game. We are excited to host them in our building and have the players put on Titan uniforms. It also gives our developing players a very local aspiration. The talent in the NAHL is impressive and I can't wait to have our players come out to watch,” said Dicks.
This year under head coach Bruno Bragagnolo, the Soo Eagles finished in 3rd place in the North Division with a 31-25-4 record and 66 points, qualifying for the NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs. The Eagles swept their North Division Semi-Final series against the Keystone Ice Miners and advanced to the North Division Finals, where the Janesville Jets eliminated them from the playoffs in four games this past weekend. In their three years in the NAHL, the Eagles have put together a 97-66-17 record overall, which includes the North Division regular season title during the 2012-13 season. In those three seasons, the Eagles have advanced more than 20 players to the NCAA level.