Today, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Niagara Storm President, Frank Trivieri, to talk about a few surprising changes to the Storm organization, and to discuss his thoughts on how these changes will now impact youth football throughout the entire Niagara and Hamilton Regions. Enjoy!
James Ryan: So Frank, what’s the big announcement? What happened this past weekend?
Frank Trivieri: Well, the big announcement is that we have been accepted into the Ontario Football Conference (OFC) whole-heartedly, and it’s now just a matter of being rubber-stamped, which is a formality as we’re definitely confirmed — we’re in! We’ve been accepted along with three other programs.
JR: Now…you mentioned the OMFL…this year, the Storm was involved with the OMFL, so what is the relationship going to be with them moving forward now that you’ve been accepted into the OFC? What does this mean for the Storm?
FT: Our intention is to continue to expand. We will put the younger programs into the OMFL, and from bantam, up—bantam, junior varsity and varsity—we will go into the OFC. I believe the OFC starts at pee wee, so we can only start at pee-wee with the OFC anyway, but it is our intention to remain in the OMFL so that we have a position in both leagues.
[CORRECTION: Since the time of this interview, the Niagara Storm have chosen to leave the OMFL entirely. The OMFL have since partnered with the OVFL.]
JR: What is the purpose then of the move if the plan is to still be involved with the OMFL? Why move the other older divisions up to the OFC? What’s the benefit there?
FT: The OFC is a bigger league, which means that the junior varsity and varsity levels will now have a field of 18 to 20 teams to compete against. So potentially, that could mean three or four divisions, which could also lead to less travel for away games. Plus, being a bigger league, I think that they’re a bit more organized. They’ve been established a lot longer than any other amateur football program in Ontario (since 1883). They’ve got affiliations with the CJFL, and they’ve got — I would say—an arm’s length of an affiliation with the CFL through the CJFL.
JR: Moving up to a bigger league, what sort of challenges does this now present to the Storm, if any?
FT: There shouldn’t be any challenges. It’s basically steady as she goes. We will continue to play the same type of football. It’ll be four downs up to bantam level, and three downs in junior varsity and varsity. It’s just basically going to be the same that it’s always been. The only real difference is that the older ages (pee wee, bantam, junior varsity, and varsity) are now in the OFC.
JR: In terms of the Niagara Region and Niagara football, which seems to be growing each year, what would you like to see happen with Niagara football moving forward? Obviously there’s the NRMFA, the Niagara Spears, and more recently, the Storm—what would you like to see happen with Niagara football?
FT: Well, what I’d like to see, is for the three parties in the Peninsula, to sit at the same table at some point, and really work away to establish a combined effort towards the development of football in the Niagara Peninsula, which will improve football whole-heartedly across the Peninsula, and will open up opportunities for football programs and for kids who plan to make a career out of it, or at the very least, go to University with it.
[CORRECTION: Currently, the Niagara Spears, the Niagara Generals and the NRMFA have all united to form "Football Niagara" in an attempt to prevent kids from joining into the Storm/OFC.]
But the other side of it too is, with the OFC, we’re not bound by the 50-road cut-off anymore. We can now reach into Hamilton. So we may have the opportunity to sit at the table with the Hamilton Minor Football Association, as well as, the Ironmen. So that’s the other side of it.
JR: And sit down with them to do what?
FT: The same thing. We may be able to at least cooperate with the Ironmen, as well as the HMFA, and that is one of the things that I intend to do. I’ve already reached out to Hamilton-Wentworth Minor Football, which is a different league on the other side of Hamilton, because they’re in the OFC. I will reach out to the HMFA to talk to them and to the Ironmen. So, we’ll be talking to everybody who’s in our general vicinity about football and what we can do to cooperate — what we can do to just make things better for amateur football in general.
JR: Awesome! And when can players from Niagara and beyond expect to be able to register?
FT: Recruitment starts now. We’re live on our new website (www.niagarastorm.com), even though it’s still currently under construction. Our registration fees until the end of December are $475. After that, it jumps to $525 until the end of January. After that, it goes to $575, so we’re trying to drive the recruitment now. We plan on doing a live registration on December 15th—the venue is to be announced—and we’re planning information sessions for players and parents to come and talk to the group, to talk to the coaches, to talk to some of the other players—just to get a feel for what the Storm is all about.
JR: Okay, final question — I’m often approached by potential players who either currently play football in the NRMFA or with the Spears, and they’re wondering — why should they come play for the Storm? Is there a real reason for them to leave where they are now? What benefits are there? What are the reasons why you would think that the players might want to come and play for the Storm, especially at this point with the big move?
FT: Well, with the Storm, I’m comfortable with saying that we’ve probably got some of the best coaching staff in all of Ontario. We’ve got people like Dave Richardson, who played several years as a former pro with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. We’ve got Brian Hutchings, who also played for several years as a pro with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. We’ve got some other gentlemen coming on board who are all former CFL players. We’ve got Chris Nunn who played pro in Europe. Chris Cleveland who played a little bit of pro in the Canadian League, but came out of the football system in Michigan. We’ve got Don Moses who’s been coaching at a higher level since he was in his 20’s, where he had formerly coached with the Burlington Braves and with the Hamilton Hurricanes.
[CORRECTION: Don Moses is no longer the Varsity Head Coach. The new HC is Brian "BJ" Malott.]
So we’ve got a nice compliment of coaches that really makes for a good program. These guys are knowledgeable about the game of football and in dealing with young adults.
JR: That’s good, because at this stage, isn’t it all about learning?
FT: Absolutely correct, James. It’s all about learning and we are focused on the fundamentals. The coaches will stress fundamentals, and the understanding of the fundamentals is what ultimately wins games for us. Proof of that was this past season with the junior varsity team where we went undefeated, and that was largely to the credit of Dave Richardson, the head coach. His philosophy is, “focus on the fundamentals, focus on the footwork, focus on proper form to tackle and block,” and that just made a big difference to our program.
The only other thing that I would like to say is that we’re excited about being in the OFC and we would like to reach out to our friendly, competitive leagues and programs in the Peninsula, and we would be more than willing to sit down at some point to talk to them whenever they want.
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