He remains a fan of the seven-team Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League. He calls the NOJHL a "really good league" and says he is leaving it with "mixed feelings." Still, Soo Eagles coach-general manager Bruno Bragagnolo awaits his team's first season in the 24-team North American Hockey League with anxious anticipation.
Having already hosted three tryout camps prior to their first NAHL season, the Eagles -- who took officially ownership of the erstwhile Traverse City North Stars franchise following the 2011-12 campaign -- will stage their main camp from August 17 to 19 in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Eagles will then see their first action as an NAHL franchise on September 7-8 when they play host to Fairbanks Ice Dogs in a Friday-Saturday weekend exhibition series at Pullar Stadium.
First home games of the 2012-13 regular season for the Eagles are slated for September 21-22 when Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings will visit the venerable Pullar. The Eagles will be a part of the NAHL's North Division with Kalamazoo and six other teams: Port Huron Fighting Falcons, Michigan Warriors, Jamestown Ironmen, Johnston Tomahawks, Janesville Jets and Springfield Jr. Blues.
To be sure, it's been a hectic summer for Bragagnolo, who coached the Eagles to a two-year, regular-season record of 72-21-7 and the 2010-11 NOJHL playoff championship.
Besides holding the three tryout camps thus far, Bragagnolo ran the Eagles first-ever NAHL draft with his trusted head scout, Tom Farnquist, in addition to tendering several players and making contact with veteran holdovers from the 2011-12 Traverse City squad.
All of this while commuting back and forth from his off-season residence in Chicago -- where Bragagnolo runs a concession stand at a busy arena -- to Sault Ste. Marie for various team and community functions.
On the hockey side, one of the top players the Eagles inherited from Traverse City is 1992 birth year forward Jared Van Wormer. Van Wormer led Traverse City in scoring during the 2011-12 season and just recently committed to the Eagles for the 2012-13 campaign.
Among the tenders are a pair of 1992 birth date defencemen with considerable junior experience in Michael Lant and Cody von Rueden. Lant played in the NAHL with Wenatchee Wild last season. von Rueden spent the 2011-12 term with Jersey Hitmen of the Eastern Jr. Hockey League after playing in the NAHL with Wenatchee and spending parts of two prior seasons in the United States Hockey League with Waterloo Blackhawks.
Also tendered are 1992 birth year goalie Tyler Marble, who has a commitment to play with the Division 1, Lake Superior State University Lakers in 2013-14; 1993 birth year right winger Dallas McLaughlin, who tallied 36 goals for the Eagles as an NOJHL rookie in 2011-12; 1993 birth year forward Layne Martin, who was the leading scorer with Detroit Belle Tire major midgets in 2011-12; Denver Pierce, a 1995 birth year left winger from the AAA midget Soo Indians who has a D1 commitment from the Northern Michigan University Wildcats for down the road in 2014-15.
Also signed is defenceman Alex Robert, a highly-regarded, 1995 birth year from Detroit Compuware who the Eagles took in the first round at this year's NAHL draft. The Eagles have also made a commit to another '95 birth year plum in forward Michael Sabatini from the Detroit Honeybaked program. Robert, Sabatini and the previously-mentioned Martin are already on the high-alert watch of National Collegiate Athletic Association, Division 1 scouts.
"Yeah, I gotta admit, I'm anxious for the season to start," said Bragagnolo. "We'll see how we match up against Fairbanks in the two exhibition games and go from there."
A perennial power, Fairbanks, which is expertly-managed by Sault Ste. Marie native Rob Proffitt, has been to the NAHL's Robertson Cup, national tournament, in each of the past three seasons. Fairbanks won the Robertson Cup to complete the 2010-11 season.