The announcement that the Thorold Jr. B Blackhawks have permanently left for Port Colborne has been making waves among local hockey fans this week.
The team’s owner Scott Barnes says that the move wasn’t an easy decision to make.
“The hardest part about this decision was the Thorold community,” he tells ThoroldToday. “They were great to us. I want fans to know there was a great pleasure in being there and they definitely deserve another team.”
Last year, the Thorold Blackhawks temporarily moved to the Vale Health and Wellness Centre in Port Colborne, because the ongoing renovations at the Frank Doherty Arena interfered with the the start of their 2022-2023 hockey season.
At the time, Barnes tried to work with City Hall to come up with a solution to stay in Thorold.
“We were looking at possibly playing out of [the Canada Games Arena] but we weren’t guaranteed to play on the big side with fans because Thorold and St. Catharines split every week,” says Barnes. “We didn’t have a dressing room to be out of, the ice rates weren’t guaranteed the same — there were just way too many variables.”
Because a solution was not found, Barnes decided to temporarily move the team to Port Colborne for a year.
Once there, the Blackhawks received a tremendous amount of support from the local community.
“Even though we were the Thorold Blackhawks, the Port Colborne community came out and supported us really well,” Barnes says. “The City of Port Colborne was really welcoming and willing to make things easy for us.”
While Barnes says that the Frank Doherty Arena in Thorold is "a really good junior hockey barn," the facilities in Port Colborne are newer and offer better amenities for the team.
That, combined with the support received from Port Colborne City Hall, made the permanent move a difficult but necessary decision that will allow the team to grow.
To kick of their next chapter, the Blackhawks will be changing their name and logo.
“We’re in the midst of that,” says Barnes. “We should have all that information in the next couple of weeks. We’re under the gun here with the timelines of getting everything ready for next season.”
It's Barnes' hope that Thorold hockey fans will forgive the team for moving away.
“I apologize to the residents of Thorold,” he says. “It’s never an easy decision but we got to look forward and hope for the best. We’re looking to be successful here in Port Colborne.”