When the Thunder Bay Thunder Cats of the United Hockey League elected to move the team to Rockford, Ill. for the upcoming season, there were no guarantees as to what players would make the move with them.
But the team did manage to bring back eight from last year’s lineup—including the high-scoring trio of Jason Firth, Brant Blackned, and Fort Frances native Wayne Strachan.
Strachan decided to re-sign with the team and once again should help provide the team (now called the Ice Hawks) with one of the UHL’s most explosive lines.
“Definitely playing in the States has its benefits,” said the talented forward, who scored 57 goals and added 71 assists last season.
“Thunder Bay was a great place to play but with Rockford being a new place, we should have more fans and hopefully there’ll be more excitement,” he added.
Strachan also said the chance to play with Firth was one of the reasons he choose to return to the UHL. That, and the fact Rockford (about a 45-minute drive northwest of Chicago) is close to a myriad of teams, including the Milwaukee Admirals, Chicago Wolves, and the Kalamazoo Wings of the International Hockey League.
Strachan said teams nowadays are reluctant to fly in a player for a short number of games, which was a problem with playing in Thunder Bay—a good eight-hour drive to the IHL’s Manitoba Moose in Winnipeg.
Strachan admitted his goal would be to have another outstanding season in the UHL and then hope to be signed in the IHL during the season. Although he admitted a couple of IHL teams expressed an interest in him during the off-season, they wanted to sign him to a two-way deal that would have locked him up with their organization.
Instead, Strachan chose to sign with Rockford and see what happens over the season. “I still think I can be successful in the IHL and help a team,” he noted.
In his current one-year deal with Rockford, laden with bonus incentives, Strachan has the chance to sign with any IHL club that would later wish to acquire his services. In the meantime, he said he has some personal goals to start the season, including topping his numbers from a year ago.
“Every year it gets harder as teams go more defensive but personally, I would like to beat my goals and points totals,” said Strachan, a former New York Ranger draft pick.
“I’d like to get my bonuses but first and foremost, I’m a team player and we have the core of the team back from last year with probably the best goalie in the league back,” he added.
“We had a great shot at winning last year but we ran into a couple of injuries in the last series,” he continued.