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GALLERY: Rock unveil jerseys

TIMMINS – The evolution of the Timmins Rock continued at the McIntyre Arena Friday morning with the NOJHL club unveiling its new jerseys and announcing a major corporate partnership with Goldcorp Porcupine Gold Mines.

Timmins native Kyle Levis, who made his debut with the franchise as a 16 year old during the 2014-15 campaign when it was known as the Abitibi Eskimos, was on hand to model the white road jersey and the maroon home jersey — both of which featured the No. 26 worn by senior adviser and club alumni Steve Sullivan when he suited up for the Timmins Golden Bears.

When training camp rolls around in August, Levis — who is impressed with the design of the jerseys — will don the more familiar No. 9 he wore during a successful rookie campaign.

“The jerseys are awesome,” he said during Friday’s news conference.

“They definitely did a really good job with the colours and the logo and everything.”

Coach and general manager Paul Gagne is also pleased with the design of the Rock jerseys.

“They look great,” he said.

“They are simple, not like we had the last couple of years with the European style.

“I really like them.”

Rock fans can begin ordering their own jerseys at Source for Sports — one of the NOJHL’s major corporate partners — although it may take a few weeks to obtain them if they are looking to have them customized with a name and numbers.

Friday’s press conference was also an opportunity for the team to welcome its newest corporate partner — Goldcorp Porcupine Gold Mines.

“We need the partnership of the business community if this project is going to be viable,” Marshall said.

“You cannot sustain our business model on attendance. We need corporate partnerships to help us out.

“Corporate partnerships represent about 30% of our operating budget and our budget is going to be around $400,000 for the season, so that is not an insignificant amount of money.

“And I cannot tell you how thrilled the hockey team is to have the city’s No. 1 employer (Goldcorp Porcupine Gold Mines ) step up to the plate and decide to become a part of our team.

“They have just been outstanding to deal with. They are an excellent corporate citizen and we are thrilled that they have come on board. We have a five-year commitment from Goldcorp.”

Goldcorp mine general manager Brendan Zuidema noted the company is just as excited as the hockey club about their new partnership.

“We are excited to help support the Timmins Rock,” he said.

“It’s a new chapter for Timmins, getting a new Junior ‘A’ team in town.

“This fits very well into our strategy of helping grow sustainable partnerships in the City of Timmins. We do it with a lot of other organizations.”

Zuidema is a big hockey fan and he is looking forward to watching the Rock this season.

“I have my own season tickets and my family and I are excited to come to the games,” he said.

“I would encourage everybody else in the community to pick up season tickets.”

He also had a message for other businesses in the community.

“I would encourage other businesses in the community to step up,” Zuidema said.

“There is lots of advertising space left on the ice and on the boards.”

Marshall also provided updates on a number of other items regarding the franchise.

“It is going to be an exciting year in the NOJHL this year,” he said.

“The league has expanded to 12 teams, so the league will run all the way from Cochrane (Crunch) to Soo, Mich., (Eagles).

The Eagles, French River Rapids and Espanola Express are the new teams in the league, while the Rock, now in Timmins, and the Iroquois Falls Eskimos (formerly the Mattawa Blackhawks) and the Rayside-Balfour Canadiens (fomerly the Sudbury Nickel Barons) represent the three franchise relocations.

Rounding out the 12 NOJHL squads are the Crunch, the Blind River Beavers, the Elliot Lake Wildcats, the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, the Powassan Voodoos and the defending Dudley Hewitt Cup champion Soo Thunderbirds.

“There will be two divisions of six teams,” Marshall said.

“We are still debating the final format, but it looks like it will be an East-West setup with a couple of teams not making the playoffs, but we won’t be one of those.

“It has now been confirmed that we will be playing a 54-game regular season schedule, so we will have 27 home games at the McIntyre Arena this winter.

“In addition to that we have a couple of exhibition games lined up. We will be hosting the Rayside-Balfour Canadiens for one game and the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners for another.”

The Rock will also face both of those teams in road exhibition games.

Marshall also provided an update on the renovations that are taking place at the McIntyre Arena in preparation for the 2015-16 season.

“The Mac is going to be undergoing a pretty significant upgrade,” he said.

“Some of the work has already commenced. The side netting will be coming down. The majority of the old gondola is going to be removed.

“The people of Timmins are really going to be pleased with the transition and how the Mac is going to look. It is going to look like a Junior ‘A’ hockey rink by the time the city is finished with it.

“The branding is going to be outstanding. You are going to see all kinds of logos on the ice, the rink boards, the ice resurfacing machine. We are even talking about having a blimp flying around during the intermissions.”

Marshall suggested that fans will see the Rock out and about at a number of events over the summer, as well.

“This is a community project,” he said.

“We are a not-for-profit organization run by a hard-working, dedicated group of volunteers.

“We are going to be very involved in the community. We are going to be at (Rotary) Ribfest, we are going to be at Canada Day, we will be at the Kayak Challenge. Any major happening within the city, we are going to be involved. It’s not just about hockey. We are going to be a real community partner.

“We have already entered into a partnership with KidSport. They are going to be looking after the Chuck A Puck at the rink. We are going to be their sports ambassador.”

Marshall hopes that increased profile will translate into the sale of more season tickets.

“We have sold 282 season tickets to date, which is good, but our target really — before the puck drops for the first exhibition game — we would like to be up around the 600 level,” he said.

“I am an optimistic person and I need to be but for a community of 45,000 people — a lot of whom are hockey fans — we are pretty confident that we should be able to reach that target.

“We encourage people to purchase season tickets. We are competing for players throughout North America and the more funds we have in our war chest the better players we can attract here.

“That will result in a better product on the ice and more excitement.

“It is easy to get complacent. It is easy to say, ‘well, it’s the off season. Relax, it’s all going to be great,’ but there is a lot of hard work that needs to happen in the off season. This is really when the hard work takes place.”