The Thorold Blackhawks have made their temporary move to Port Colborne permanent starting in the 2023-24 Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League season. The GOJHL team will play their home games at the Vale Health and Wellness Centre going forward.
The Blackhawks relocated to Port Colborne last season due to ongoing construction at the Thorold Arena. The team was also forced to leave the city for the playoffs in 2022.
Team owner Scott Barnes says making the move to Port Colborne is an easy decision. “They have been very welcoming to us right from the start when we first came here in 2022. We played here all season and the town, the people, the staff, the arena, there are a lot of positives. The arena is a great facility with a gym, two ice pads, everything we need. There is also ice year-round and we have our own entrance and locker room. Its just the perfect place for a junior team to play.” Barnes adds the town itself has been very supportive and is very hungry to have a team.
He adds the first matter at hand is to generate interest off the ice. “We are looking for volunteers, game-day staff, and we are going to be out in the community looking for some sponsorships and partnerships, working together with area businesses. There is a lot of work ahead, but we will be getting out there and getting the word out.” He adds the team will still benefit from some continued support from Thorold with those willing to make the 15-to-20-minute drive. “There are some that can’t commit to it anymore but the majority of them are going to come back and help out. I totally understand those who just can’t make the commitment.”
Barnes is a Dunnville native but has hockey connections to the city playing there for three seasons. “I played junior hockey in Port Colborne and have made a lot of friends here that I played with. A lot of connections. It’s always been like a second hockey home for me.”
When asked if playing at the Vale Health and Wellness Centre could help with recruiting, Barnes says it won’t hurt. “We have a lot of returning players this season, so we don’t need a lot coming into this season which is nice. But its not going to hurt having a facility like this when it comes to recruiting. The opportunity to skate all summer long and bring in prospects to get a glimpse of it. It could definitely help.”
Port Colborne had been without a junior B team since 2014 when the Pirates relocated to Pelham. The Blackhawks joined the Golden Horseshoe Junior B Hockey League in 1982 and stayed members until 2007 when it merged into the GOJHL. Barnes purchased the team in 2017 from Tony Giglotti and Ralph Sacco.
Anyone interested in helping with the team can e-mail Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org.