Niagara Falls Thunder

The Niagara Falls Thunder was a junior ice hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League from 1988 to 1996. The team was based in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Niagara Falls Thunder
Niagara falls thunder 2.png
CityNiagara Falls, Ontario
LeagueOntario Hockey League
Operated1988 (1988)–96
Home arenaNiagara Falls Memorial Arena
ColoursRed, white and black
Franchise history
1946–1953Windsor Spitfires
1953–1960Hamilton Tiger Cubs
1960–1974Hamilton Red Wings
1974–1978Hamilton/St. Catharines Fincups
1978–1984Brantford Alexanders
1984–1988Hamilton Steelhawks
1988–1996Niagara Falls Thunder
1996–presentErie Otters


Niagara Falls became home to its third OHL franchise in 1988 upon the relocation of the Hamilton Steelhawks. The new team was named the Niagara Falls Thunder. The team filled the void left behind when the Niagara Falls Flyers departed for North Bay in 1982.

The Thunder picked up on the winning note of the Steelhawks' last season in Hamilton. Coach Bill LaForge returned with a strong core of players that lead the team to a second-place finish in 1988–89. Niagara Falls reached the OHL finals the first year in their new home city, losing to the Peterborough Petes.

Many players graduated from the OHL after that season and the Thunder began to rebuild for 1989–90. Shortly into the season, growing tensions between team owner Rick Gay and coach Bill LaForge led to the coach being fired. LaForge was never forgiven by the fans for perhaps costing the team a chance of the Memorial Cup in 1989.

The Thunder hired the younger and up-and-coming Oshawa Generals' assistant coach George Burnett to take over. The team rallied from out of the playoffs to 6th place. Niagara Falls continued its momentum into the third round of the playoffs knocking off the first place London Knights before losing to the Kitchener Rangers.

The Thunder finished the next two seasons in second place, and made it to the third round of the playoffs both years, a feat they managed four years in a row. Coach Burnett was voted Coach of the Year for 1990–91 and 1991–92. Both years their playoff nemesis, the Soo Greyhounds, eliminated them in the semi-finals.

Many players graduated in 1992 for professional careers, and Coach Burnett was promoted to the Cape Breton Oilers of the AHL. He won the Calder Cup with the team in 1992–93.

The team never regained its strength of the first four seasons. After three poor seasons on the ice from 1992–93 to 1994–95, game attendance was dropping. This, combined with rescheduling of Sunday games to Saturday nights, and an aging arena with no new arena deal in sight, resulted in the Thunder moving to Erie, Pennsylvania, to play as the Otters.


George Burnett was voted the OHL Coach of the Year in the 1990–91 and 1991–92 seasons, winning the Matt Leyden Trophy in only his first and second full seasons as a head coach in the OHL.


Award winnersEdit

NHL alumniEdit

Yearly resultsEdit

Regular seasonEdit

Season Games Won Lost Tied Points Pct % Goals
1988–89 66 41 23 2 84 0.636 410 319 2nd Emms
1989–90 66 23 39 4 50 0.379 278 355 6th Emms
1990–91 66 39 18 9 87 0.659 335 259 2nd Emms
1991–92 66 39 23 4 82 0.621 307 254 2nd Emms
1992–93 66 29 30 7 65 0.492 299 274 5th Emms
1993–94 66 21 41 4 46 0.348 277 352 8th Emms
1994–95 66 18 40 8 44 0.333 231 298 4th Central
1995–96 66 29 30 7 65 0.492 248 238 3rd Central


Season 1st round 2nd round 3rd round Finals
1988-89 W, 4-0 Windsor Bye W, 4-3 London L 4-2


1990-91 W, 4-2 Kitchener W, 4-0 Windsor L 4-0 S.S. Marie
1991-92 W, 4-3 Detroit W, 4-1 London L 4-1 S.S. Marie
1992-93 L, 4-0 Owen Sound - -
1994-95 L, 4-2 Owen Sound - - -
1995-96 W, 4-2 Owen Sound L, 4-0 Guelph - -


The Niagara Falls Thunder played home games at Niagara Falls Memorial Arena from 1988 to 1996.