By Sam Laskaris
Kirk Kemp was admittedly not looking to get into the business of owning a junior hockey team. “I’ve got a lot on my plate right now,” said Kemp, the president of Newcastle-based Algoma Orchards. Besides running his family business, Kemp is also heavily involved in hospital and hospice fundraising efforts in Clarington.
Yet earlier this summer Kemp just couldn’t say no to another request. When it became public that the Clarington Eagles Junior C hockey club might be on the verge of disappearing, many local residents turned to Kemp to see if he could save the franchise. “I was getting all these texts and Facebook messages asking me if I could save the Eagles,” Kemp said. “I didn’t know what was going on. Before you know it, here I am (owning the team).” The Eagles’ transfer from previous owners Tony and Jan Visca to Kemp was announced in mid-August.
Kemp obviously still has a soft spot for the franchise. He played two seasons for the club when it was called the Bowmanville Eagles in the late 1970s. And the former right winger was a member of the Eagles’ squad that captured the Schmalz Cup, the Ontario championship, in 1978. Kemp’s son Eric, who played defence, is also an Eagles’ alumnus as he spent four seasons with the organization, from 2003-07. During that period the Eagles had moved up and competed at the Junior A level.
The Kemps also have their share of local ties. “Our family has been in the community for about 100 years now,” Kemp said. “It’s a great community.” Kemp operates Algoma Orchards with Eric and his other son Byron. Meanwhile, his wife Sheila and daughter Erin run the Kemp Travel Group, which has offices in Bowmanville, Oshawa and Whitby.
Kemp said he will very much be a hands-off owner with the Eagles. The team was recently approved as a non-profit organization and has a new executive. “I’m just sort of the captain steering the ship,” he said. Kemp is obviously hoping the Eagles will have their share of successes as early as possible. “We’ve got a bunch of veterans and some good young players,” he said. “We have the makings of a very good team and we are shooting for another league championship.” Kemp added the Eagles will indeed be aiming for a league championship this season. “I always shoot for the moon,” he said. “You never know. There’s no point in shooting for anything less.”
The Eagles will be one of seven squads participating in the Orr Division of the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) during the 2021-22 campaign. The division also includes the Georgina Ice, Lakefield Chiefs, Little Britain Merchants, North Kawartha Knights, Port Perry MoJacks and Uxbridge Bruins.
The Eagles have won their two exhibition contests thus far, downing the MoJacks 4-3 on Sept. 16. Clarington also edged the Campbellford Rebels, members of the PJHL’s Tod Division, 3-2 on Sept. 23. The Eagles’ next pre-season match is Saturday in Lakefield. And Clarington will conclude its exhibition schedule with a Tuesday road game in Campbellford. Clarington will commence its regular season on Oct. 2 in Little Britain. The Eagles’ home opener is scheduled for Oct. 7, also against Little Britain. The opening faceoff is set for 7:20p.m. at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.