A four-player deal between the Borderland Thunder and Nipigon Feathermen Hawks has players involved on both sides considering their options.
The Thunder sent forwards Justin Bodnarchuk and Mike Fair, along with defenceman Terry Parisien, to the Hawks on Sunday for forward Brent Greene, who made last year’s inaugural Superior International Junior Hockey League all-star team.
Both Bodnarchuk and Parisien played for the Thunder last season while Fair was acquired just last week from the Thunder Bay Wolves for Keith Lawrence.
He didn’t play in either game against the Hawks here last weekend.
“We had to give up two quality players to get one,” said Thunder head coach Dave Allison, speaking of Bodnarchuk and Parisien. “It’s an opportunity for them to play more than we could promise them they would.”
But those on both sides of the transaction are not in any hurry to pack their bags.
Bodnarchuk sensed something was in the air when he arrived at practice Sunday to find captain Josh Baxter waiting for him.
“Josh said Dave [Allison] wanted to see me, and I knew it wasn’t great news,” said Bodnarchuk, 20, who was the team’s third-leading scorer last season with 43 points (19 goals and 24 assists) in 45 games, as well as 60 penalty minutes.
“The entire coaching staff and [general manager] Brent Tookenay were there,” he added. “They told [Bodnarchuk and Parisien] we had played great, but thought we’d be better off going to a team where we’d get lots of ice time.
“I wasn’t the happiest about it,” he admitted.
So unhappy, in fact, that Bodnarchuk is still deciding if he wants to report to the Hawks or try his hand elsewhere.
“I might go down near London, where my parents are, and play Junior ‘A’ or Junior ‘B,’” said Bodnarchuk. “I’m still undecided. I’ve got to put more thought into it.
“I’ve heard [Nipigon] was in financial trouble, and I’m not going to a team that’s not going to be able to support its players.”
Bodnarchuk’s reference was to the significant debtload the Hawks’ new management team of Vern Ray and head coach/GM Terry Menard faced when coming on board with Nipigon earlier this year.
The financial strain the Hawks are feeling was accentuated last weekend when the SIJHL had to pay their busing and food costs to travel here to play the Thunder, while the host squad covered the cost of the hotel accommodations.
SIJHL president Jerry Blazino had no concerns about Nipigon’s financial stability, pointing to the fact the Hawks haven’t had any home games yet to generate revenue.
“That team’s going to pull through,” Blazino said Monday. “When the new management has to pay off last year’s debts, it’s a pretty tough go.
“The week would have been worse if Nipigon hadn’t gone to play their games,” he noted. “Other teams have had this problem, too. We don’t want this to happen again, but we have to help out the league’s weak sisters, too.”
Blazino said when the Thunder travel to Nipigon for games Oct. 12-13, the Hawks will be in a position to reciprocate by paying Borderland’s hotel fees for the weekend.
Bodnarchuk also said Menard assured him the team’s financial struggles were being sorted out, and was told he would be one of the team’s top players.
But he’s withholding judgment for now.
“[Menard] sounded enthusiastic, but I don’t know what to expect when I get there,” Bodnarchuk said.
Greene led the Hawks in goal-scoring last season with 39, and posted 72 points in 45 games. He didn’t play against the Thunder here last weekend due to what he said was a case of the ’flu.
But he also said he was “shocked” by the trade and said he also may fight it.
“This means I might have to move out of school,” said Greene, 19, who’s taking courses to complete his high school education.
“I really need my credits. I’m not looking outside the league right now as an option. Hopefully, I’ll have a decision in about a week,” he said.
Tookenay said there was more to Greene’s trepidation about coming to the Thunder, but wouldn’t specify. He also noted life will go on for the Thunder with or without Greene.
“The bottom line is how bad does the kid want to play hockey?” said Tookenay, who added it was the Hawks who approached him originally about wanting Parisien, which set the deal in motion.
“These kids have to realize teams put a lot of money into them,” he remarked. “As a player, you’re not going to dictate where you’re going to play, or when you’re going to play.
“It’s the guys who are here that we’re concerned with, not the ones who won’t come.”
Parisien had 10 goals and 13 assists for 23 points in 45 games last season with the Thunder, along with 16 penalty minutes. He was unavailable for comment at press time.
In other Thunder moves this week, goalie A.J. Schneidmiller was released due to what Allison called a case of homesickness.
“He wasn’t comfortable here and he just turned 17,” Tookenay said of the Owen Sound native, who played in Saturday’s 5-5 tie here against Nipigon.
“We wish him all the best. He’s going to be a really good goalie someday.”
Tookenay also said defenceman James Raymond was on the trading block, with a deal currently being worked on with the Campbellton (N.B.) Tigers of the Maritime Junior ‘A’ Hockey League.
The Richmond, B.C. native fell out of favour with the Thunder coaching staff after what Allison described as a consistent failure to follow team guidelines.
“We want people to understand there will be rules around here and a code of conduct that I expect the kids to follow,” said Allison, who wasn’t specific about Raymond’s indiscretions other than his back-to-back cross-checking penalties in the first period of Saturday night’s game.
“It’s about knowing your team’s not where you want it to be [personnel-wise], but you’re building towards it,” Allison added.