The Thunder Bay Kings and Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) announced Thursday that three Thunder Bay teams have officially been granted the ability to play in the respective U15, U16, and U18 AAA divisions of the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL).
This announcement comes with the full approval of the GTHL, Hockey Northwestern Ontario (HNO), the Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF) and Hockey Canada.
In joining the GTHL, the Kings become the 13th team in their U15, U16, and U18 AAA divisions.
“This is a monumental step forward for AAA hockey in northwestern Ontario,” offered Kings’ president Michael Power in making the announcement. “The GTHL is a premier AAA hockey league in Canada and one of the most scouted organizations by the OHL, CJHL, NCAA, and U SPORTS. “Our membership and active participation can only benefit the next generation of Staal’s, Pyatt’s, Sharp’s, Murray’s and Johnson’s on being recruited out of the Kings organization to compete at the next level.”
The Clubs that currently play in GTHL’s three age groups that the Kings will be part of include the Don Mills Flyers; Markham Majors; Mississauga Rebels; Mississauga Reps; Mississauga Senators; North York Rangers; Toronto Jr. Canadiens; Toronto Marlboros; Toronto Red Wings; Toronto Titans; Toronto Young Nationals and the Vaughan Kings.
“The GTHL is pleased about the addition of the Thunder Bays Kings to three AAA divisions”, stated Scott Oakman, Executive Director, and Chief Pperating Officer of the GTHL. “The fact that participation of these teams in our League will create an improved player environment, as the result of reduced travel and reduced expenses, to the families and organization and allow the players the opportunity to spend significantly more time at home, makes their participation in our league a logical choice. We welcome them and look forward to having them compete with the other 12 GTHL AAA organizations.”
The overall move to the GTHL by the Kings was precipitated due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the current cross-border travel issues associated with Thunder Bay playing in the U.S.-based North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL). There the U-16 and U-18 sides competed with the U-15s also played in various contests, with all their NAPHL games being contested in the U.S.
Through the continued uncertainty of the Canada/U.S. border closure and the challenges faced with the U.S. dollar exchange rate, as well as the costs associated with this, the organization began discussions on feasible choices to return to Canada to compete.
Of note, the Kings will require formal approval from Hockey Canada, yearly, for out of branch competition, as was the case with them playing in the NAPHL.
As a full member of the GTHL, the three Thunder Bay AAA sides will play a 36-game regular-season schedule, plus playoffs, where they would compete for league championships in their respective divisions.
Thunder Bay will also continue taking part in HNO district playdowns while the U16s would participate in the OHL Cup showcase event.
Meanwhile, should they advance, the U15s would skate in the All-Ontario championship and the U18s would compete in the TELUS Cup West Regional in an attempt to participate in the TELUS Cup nationals.
About the Greater Toronto Hockey League
Founded in 1911, the GTHL is a non-profit organization and the largest minor hockey league in the world. The GTHL registers more than 40,000 annual participants in Mississauga, Toronto, Markham and Vaughan. The purpose of the GTHL is to govern organized hockey for youth within its jurisdiction, and to foster the development of good character, citizenship and sportsmanship.
About the Thunder Bay Kings
First launched back in 1988, the Thunder Bay Kings have gone on to achieve great success in their 30-plus years of operation at the AAA minor hockey level. Boasting multiple branch, provincial and national championships, the organization has helped develop and produce a plethora of hockey talent over the past three decades.