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New Thunderbirds ownership in place

Darren Smyl took over operation of the NOJHL's Soo Thunderbirds this week
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The Soo Thunderbirds have a new face at the helm.

Businessman Darren Smyl took over operation of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League franchise on Monday.

Smyl takes over operation of the organization from The Tech, who took over the team last May from Albert Giommi.

Smyl spoke of getting involved because of the possibility that the team would be transferred to out of town interests.

“There was potential that the team was going to go to someone that didn’t live in the Soo,” Smyl said. “I didn’t want a non-Sault resident to take control of the team. It’s a local team and it should be for building the youth sports. That’s what it’s all about.”

Smyl went on to say the organization, and Tier II junior hockey generally, is about “taking care of kids that are going to go the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), CIS (Canadian Inter-University Sport) or are just late-bloomers.”

“We want to have those local success stories where we’ve got kids who are going to go on to the NCAA, CIS or even the OHL that just needed the extra couple of years (to develop).”

Smyl said he’s excited to work with Thunderbirds General Manager/Coach Jordan Smith.

“Jordan’s a great coach,” Smyl said. “He’s got it figured out. He knows how to motivate the boys. In two years, he’s done a great job with the team.”

The organization also sees the return of Mark Hebert in the role of assistant general manager. Hebert has stepped away from his role with the team earlier this season but Smyl said that the well-established Hebert is back in the mix.

The Thunderbirds organization is run as a non-profit entity, which means the ownership transfers control of the team as opposed to buying shares, as would be the case in a traditional ownership change for a team, such as the Soo Greyhounds.