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SIJHL expansion team in Wisconsin approved

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The SIJHL announced Friday that its Board of Governors unanimously has approved the acceptance of a seventh franchise in time for the 2019-20 season to be based in Spooner, Wis.

The addition of the new franchise will become official once receiving final approval from Hockey Canada and the CJHL.

USA Hockey's Junior Council already has granted its endorsement and permission for the U.S.-based franchise, which will be named the Wisconsin Lumberjacks, to join the SIJHL and become members of the CJHL.

“The SIJHL is thrilled for the opportunity to be returning to Spooner and the northwest Wisconsin area with the addition of the Wisconsin Lumberjacks,” SIJHL Commissioner Bryan Graham said.

“The local group, led by owner and team president Doug Lein, along with the staff at the Spooner Civic Center, have shown tremendous vision and dedication in bringing SIJHL hockey back to the great fans of Spooner and the surrounding communities,” he noted.

“We at the SIJHL look forward to a strong partnership for years to come, and we'd like to express our thanks to USA Hockey's Junior Council for their support of this venture in endorsing the Lumberjacks to join the SIJHL and become the 134th member of the CJHL,” Graham added.

The Lumberjacks' ownership also is excited to be joining the SIJHL.

“Sophia Pinto and I are thankful for this opportunity to bring the SIJHL, and Canadian Junior 'A' hockey, back to northwest Wisconsin and Spooner,” said Lein.

"We look forward to continuing the tradition.

“The City of Spooner and Washburn County, along with Hayward, Cumberland, and the surrounding Northwoods, is an area that loves their hockey,” he enthused.

“The Wisconsin Lumberjacks are looking forward to bringing that passion to the next level.”

The Lumberjacks will make the Spooner Civic Center their home arena.

This 100,000 sq. ft. facility, which seats 1,500 fans, has undergone many improvements and renovations of late, and continues to open new areas of usage to the public.

Stadium seating is being added to the arena, as well as many other amenity improvements throughout the facility.

“The Spooner Civic Center is extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with the Lumberjacks to bring junior hockey to the facility in 2019 and beyond,” said Spooner Civic Center general manager Rick Saletri.

“Northland Family Holdings, the Lumberjacks' parent company, and the arena ownership, Storage Rink, LLC., have come to terms on a usage agreement and look forward to working together,” Lein noted.

“Both parties look forward to a long relationship in expanding the northern Wisconsin hockey culture.”

The SIJHL last had a team in Spooner during the 2011-12 season when, under then-head coach and general manager Rod Aldoff, the Wisconsin Wilderness won back-to-back Bill Salonen Cups before relocating to Cloquet, Mn. in 2012-13.

They went on to win a third-straight league title, and also capture the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, that season.

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