Home opener – Saturday Sept. 8

IROQUOIS FALLS – The Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League has announced that it will kick off its 51st campaign on Wednesday, Sept. 5, at the McClellan Arena in Sudbury.   In the 2012-13 opener, the Blind River Beavers will face off against the newly minted Sudbury Nickel Barons (formerly Cubs).   Abitibi Eskimos fans will get their first look at their club on Saturday, Sept. 8, when they host the Nickel Barons at the Jus Jordan Arena. Game time is 7:30 p.m.   “It’s a whole new organization,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne, describing this year’s entry from Sudbury. “It’s a whole new coaching staff, (Dave) Clancy was there a couple of years ago and did a great job, so we are going to have our hands full.”    The Eskimos will also be in action on Sunday, Sept. 9, when they travel to Kirkland Lake to take on the Gold Miners.   The North Bay Trappers — the team that eliminated the Eskimos from the 2011-12 playoffs — will make its first visit to the Jus Jordan Arena on Saturday, Sept. 29.   “I am sure North Bay is going to be stacking up,” Gagne said. “They are hosting the Dudley Hewitt Cup this year, so they are definitely going to be stack up their team … but so are we. After getting eliminated by them and I am not going to give any excuses, but when you have five or six affiliates in the playoffs, with all the injuries we had, we will be looking for a little bit of redemption, I guess you would call it.”   Abitibi fans will have to wait until Saturday, Oct. 13, to see the Eskimos do battle with the Gold Miners at the Jus Jordan Arena in regular season action.   Kirkland Lake will visit Iroquois Falls on Saturday, Aug. 25, for the second of a home-and-home exhibition series against their NOJHL rivals.   The first game of that series will be played at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex in Kirkland Lake on Friday, Aug. 24, following the Eskimos’ four-day main training camp — scheduled to begin on Monday.   Meanwhile, the NOJHL’s newest franchise, the Elliot Lake Bobcats, won’t make their first visit to Iroquois Falls until Saturday, Nov. 10.   “Their coach and manager (Ryan Leonard) played in this league a few years back,” Gagne said.   “So he should know, a little bit, what to expect.   “It’s always good to have fresh blood in the league, like that.”   The Eskimos are scheduled to play 21 of their 24 home games on Saturday nights, with one Wednesday night contest and two Friday night games — both to be played at the Archie Dillon Sportsplex in Timmins.   “It’s nice to have our home games on Saturdays,” Gagne said.   “Through trial and error, we have determined our fans prefer Saturdays, so we are happy to have 21 of our home games on Saturdays.”   In addition to the two dates in Timmins, the Eskimos will also play a home game at the Tim Horton Arena in Cochrane on Saturday, Dec. 1, against the Nickel Barons.   “Over the years, we have always had at least one game in Cochrane,” Gagne said.   “We have quite a few people from Cochrane coming to watch games and we have sponsors from the area, so it’s nice to share the wealth a little bit.   “It’s the same in Timmins, we have had great support and great sponsorship. They are good fans, they travel back and forth, so it’s always nice to spread it around a little bit.”   In Abitibi fans has better hope that the 2012-13 version of the Eskimos are road warriors, as the squad will play the final four games of its 48-game regular season — 24 home games and 24 road games — away from the friendly confines of the Jus Jordan Arena.   Abitibi Eskimos 2012-13 schedule • Saturday night games — 21, including 20 at Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls, one at Tim Horton Arena in Cochrane.   • Friday night games — 2, both at Archie Dillon Sportsplex in Timmins.   • Wednesday night games — One, at Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls.   • Home opener — Saturday, Sept. 8, against Sudbury Nickel Barons.   • Exhibition games — Two, Friday, Aug. 24, in Kirkland Lake and Saturday, Aug. 25, at Jus Jordan Arena, against Gold Miners.   • Main training camp — Runs from Monday, Aug. 20, until Thursday, Aug. 23.