Lakehead Junior Hockey LeagueWikipedia open wikipedia design.
The Lakehead Junior Hockey League is a Canadian Junior ice hockey league in Northwestern Ontario, sanctioned by Hockey Northwestern Ontario and Hockey Canada. An earlier edition of this league existed in the 1970s.
Formerly referred to as the Thunder Bay Junior B/Juvenile/AAA Hockey League, the LJHL league has, in the past, mixed itself with Juvenile and Midget "AAA" teams in the Thunder Bay region for regular season games. In those seasons, only the Junior teams are eligible for the playoffs. The league playoff champions earn the right to compete for the Keystone Cup, the Western Canadian Junior "B" championship. Hockey Canada does not offer a Junior "B" National championship therefore regional (Southern Ontario-Sutherland Cup, Ottawa District-Carson Trophy, Quebec-Coupe Dodge, Atlantic Canada-Don Johnson Memorial Cup) winners lay claim as top teams at the level.
From 1996 until 2004, the TBJBHL competed against the North of Superior Junior B Hockey League in the Northwestern Ontario Regionals for the right to compete at the Keystone Cup. After the 2003–04 season, the NSHL folded with their last champion, the Wawa Travellers, losing the league's final game in the regionals to the TBJBHL's Thunder Bay Northern Hawks.
The Fort William Hurricanes did not manage to win the league championship in its first season, but it won the league's first National medal. The Westfort Maroons won the league championship while the Hurricanes played host to the Keystone Cup. The Hurricanes finished the round robin with a 3–1–1 record, losing a tiebreaker for second place to the Kinistino Tigers (North Saskatchewan Junior B Hockey League) due to a head-to-head 4-1 loss. The Hurricanes defeated the North Okanagan Kings of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League 8-7 to win the Keystone Cup Bronze medal game.
At the Northern Ontario regionals, the Fort William Hurricanes were dropped by the Hearst Elans of the North of Superior Junior B Hockey League. The Herks hosted the 1999 Keystone Cup regardless of regional qualifying. The Hurricanes finished the Keystone Cup round robin in a three-way tie for second place and a berth into the gold medal game with the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League's Campbell River Storm and the South Saskatchewan Junior B Hockey League's Assiniboia Southern Rebels. During the robin, the Herks defeated Assiniboia 7–5 and Campbell River 6–4, thus winning the tie breaker. In the final they met the Edmonton Royals of the Capital Junior Hockey League and defeated them 5–3 to win the Keystone Cup. This championship marked the first and so far only Western Canada Jr. B championship since the leagues inception in 1993.
2003–04 Northern Hawks
In the 2003–04 season, the Thunder Bay Northern Hawks were a dominant champion, sporting a 22–0–2 perfect record and a Thunder Bay Junior B championship. In the Northern Ontario Regional Junior B Hockey Championship, the Northern Hawks defeated the Wawa Travellers four-games-straight to advance to the Keystone Cup tournament in Schreiber, Ontario. At the Keystone Cup, the Northern Hawks finished with 2 wins, 1 loss, and 2 ties, which earned them a spot in the tournament's bronze medal game. The Hawks fell in the Bronze Medal Game 7–5 to the Heritage Junior B Hockey League's Red Deer Vipers.
The K&A Wolverines were awarded the right to host the 2009 Keystone Cup. For the first time in over ten years, a Thunder Bay Junior B team finished the Keystone Cup round robin with a perfect record. The Wolverines (5–0) went into the final against the Pacific International Junior Hockey League's Richmond Sockeyes, but fell 6–5 in double overtime to take the Silver Medal. The finish was the best performance by a Thunder Bay Junior B club since the 1999 Fort William Hurricanes, who won the Keystone Cup. At the end of the season, the Wolverines jumped to Junior A, joining the Superior International Junior Hockey League.
2011–12 Northern Hawks
The Northern Hawks finished first in the league with a 30–2–0 record. They blasted the Schreiber Falcons 3-games-to-none in a lopsided semifinal playoff series and then defeated the Nipigon Elks 4-games-to-1 to win the Thunder Bay championship in a very hard-fought series. The Northern Hawks shipped out to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, for the 2012 Keystone Cup. Despite leading 3–1 at one point, the Northern Hawks lost their opening game to the Abbotsford Pilots of the Pacific International Junior Hockey League, 7–4. The Northern Hawks then went on a tear, defeating the Host Saskatoon Royals 6–3, Keystone Junior Hockey League's Arborg Ice Dawgs 7–5, North West Junior Hockey League's Whitecourt Wolverines 7–4, and the Prairie Junior Hockey League's Pilot Butte Storm 3–1 to earn a berth into the gold medal game with a 4–1–0 record. After four victories in a row, the Northern Hawks fell to the Pilots in the gold medal game, 9–1. The Northern Hawks' silver medal is the league's second in four seasons after being shut out from 2000 until the Wolverines won silver in 2009.