Thunderbirds kick off their 25th season tonight vs Eagles

By Matt Stefano

Another season of Soo Thunderbirds hockey is set to begin tonight!

And this season, it will also be a milestone season.

Tonight the Soo Thunderbirds will officially kick off their 25th season in the NOJHL against their cross-border rivals the Soo Eagles, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the John Rhodes.


Last season, the Thunderbirds finished off with a record of 36-15-3-3, good for 78 points, and also finished as the No. 3 seeded team on the NOJHL’s West Division.

Despite not having home ice advantage last year in the playoffs, the Thunderbirds still made it all the way to last year’s NOJHL final, where they ended up losing in the NOJHL final against the top team in the league, Timmins Rock.

The Eagles, meanwhile, finished last season with a record of 26-27-4-1, good for only 57 points and ended up finishing in fifth place in the NOJHL’s West Division.

The Eagles, who finished last season with only 57 points, also ended up missing the NOJHL postseason for the first time ever.


This year, the Soo Thunderbirds have a pair of twenty-goal scorers back from last year’s roster, including forwards Jackson Truchan and Daniel Beaupre.

Truchan, who is entering his second and final season with the T-Birds, led all NOJHL rookies in goals last season with 26.

Beaupre, who will be entering his first full season with the Thunderbirds this year, finished last season with 20 goals, including 17 as a member of the T-Birds.

Before suiting up for his first game with the T-Birds on September 22, 2022, Beaupre had 3 goals in 5 games as a member of the Timmins Rock.


After recording 22 goals and 41 points in 51 games last season with the Eagles, Soo Eagles forward Kenny Belanger Jr. is back on the Eagles this year for another season.

Belanger, who found the back of the net 22 times last season, is also the only returning twenty-goal scorer from last year’s Soo Eagles roster.

Before playing last season with the Soo Eagles, Belanger played the 2021-2022 season with his hometown Soo Thunderbirds, where he helped the Thunderbirds win their fifth Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy in franchise history.


This week, the Soo Thunderbirds hired a new assistant coach behind the bench for the 2023-2024 season, as they hired Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native Laine Bertin.

Bertin, who will be entering his first season as an assistant coach with the Thunderbirds, spent last season as an assistant coach with the Great North Under-18 Hockey League’s Soo Jr. Greyhounds, where he worked alongside Soo Thunderbirds general manager Jamie Henderson (Who served last season as the Soo Jr. Greyhounds head coach).

Last season on the Jr. Greyhounds, Bertin also coached six players on that team who have now become members of the Soo Thunderbirds, including Callum McAuley, Jacob Smith, Candon O’Neill, Evan Roach, Declan Gallivan and Maverick Fletcher.

Bertin, who was hired as the Thunderbirds new assistant coach, replaces former Thunderbirds assistant coach Anthony Miller, who spent two seasons behind the bench with the Thunderbirds from 2021-2023.


Over the last twenty-four years, the Soo Thunderbirds have had a total six season opening games against the Soo Eagles.

And the Thunderbirds record when having a season opening game against the Soo Eagles is 4-2.

Here’s a list of all the results of the season opening games over the years against the Soo Eagles:

– September 8, 2010 (W 8-4 at the John Rhodes)
– September 9, 2011 (L 5-3 at the Essar Centre)
– September 11, 2015 (W 5-2 at the Essar Centre)
– September 7, 2018 (W 7-5 at the John Rhodes)
– September 7, 2019 (W 7-2 at the John Rhodes)
– September 9, 2022 (L 4-1 at the John Rhodes)


When the Soo Thunderbirds play against the Soo Eagles in a season opening game, the Thunderbirds usually end up making it all the way to the NOJHL final at the end of the season.

Out of the six times the Thunderbirds played the Soo Eagles in a season opening game, the Thunderbirds have made it to the NOJHL final four times, including in 2012, 2016, 2019 and last season in 2023.

Out of those four NOJHL final appearances, the Thunderbirds have also went on to win the Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy twice (2012 & 2016).


Back in 2020, the NOJHL postseason ended up getting canceled due to COVID-19.

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