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Eskimos open season in Sudbury

The Abitibi Eskimos will be on the road for the first game of the 2011-12 Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League season.

Sudbury Cubs — formerly the Kal Tire Jr. Wolves — will play host to the Eskimos at the McClelland Arena at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 7.

The 2011-12 season marks the 50th anniversary of the NOJHL.

The league’s newest team, the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils (formerly the Manitoulin Islanders), meanwhile, will open their season at home against the North Bay Trappers.

The two teams will take to the ice at the Kirkland Lake Community Complex at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9.

Eskimos fans won’t have to wait long to get their first chance to boo the Blue Devils.

Kirkland Lake will be the opposition for the Eskimos first home game of 2011-12 on Saturday, Sept. 10.

The Igloo (Jus Jordan Arena) is sure to be rocking for that encounter, scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

The defending Copeland Cup champion Soo Eagles won’t pay their first visit to the Igloo until Saturday, Oct. 22.

The NOJHL will feature seven teams for the 2011-12 season, down one from last year.

The Temiscaming Royals franchise was revoked by the league.

 The Eastern Conference includes the Eskimos, Blue Devils, Trappers and Cubs, while the Western Conference is made up of the Eagles, Soo Thunderbirds and Blind River Beavers.

In addition to playing in the first game of the NOJHL’s 2011-12 regular season, the Eskimos will also be on the ice for the final game of the regular season — also on the road.

The Eskimos game in North Bay on Sunday, Jan. 29, will bring to a close the regular season.

Each NOJHL team will play 50 games — 25 at home and 25 on the road.

As with previous seasons, the bulk of the Abitibi Eskimos home games will be played on Saturday nights.

The Eskimos — under head coach and general manager Paul Gagne — are scheduled to hit the ice for a four-day training camp on Tuesday, Aug. 2, at the McIntyre Arena in Timmins.

Gagne, in an earlier interview with The Daily Press, indicated he is hoping to have between 30-40 players on the ice for the start of camp.

There will be a number of holes to fill on the roster after the departure of a number of key veterans — including captain Josh Clancy.

The offence Clancy supplied will be difficult to replace.

He was second on the team in goals, with 30, and point, with 62, during the 2010-11 campaign.

The Iroquois Falls native’s best season was 2009-10, when he scored 42 goals and added 42 assists, while playing on a line with Felix Boutin and Marc-Alain Begin.

Goaltender J.P. Fecteau headlines an impressive core of veterans, however, that should give Gagne a solid base from which to build a competitive team.