Thunder Bay Chill
|Full name||Thunder Bay Chill|
|Stadium||Fort William Stadium|
Thunder Bay, Ontario
|Owner||Thunder Bay Elite Soccer Inc.|
|Head Coach||Giovanni Petraglia|
|League||USL League Two|
|2019||3rd, Heartland Division|
The team plays its home games at Fort William Stadium. The team's colours are white and blue.
Thunder Bay Chill joined the PDL in 2000 as the first ever soccer franchise from Northwestern Ontario. Their initial forays into competitive action were not hugely successful: they finished last in the Heartland Division in their debut season with a 4–13–1 record, improved to 6–13–1 in 2001 but still finished fourth of five in the Heartland, then 5–12–1 in 2002, finishing sixth of eight and still some way off the playoff standard set by regional rivals such as Des Moines Menace and Boulder Rapids Reserve.
The 2003 season started with three back-to-back victories over the Wisconsin Rebels and Kalamazoo Kingdom, mainly due to the goal scoring of Liberian striker Doco Wesseh. Chill's problem was inconsistency - back-to-back wins were followed by back-to-back defeats - and despite several impressive victories, including a 4–1 over the Wisconsin Rebels, a 5–4 win on the road at Sioux Falls Spitfire, and a 4–2 win over the Des Moines Menace in which Wesseh scored a hat trick, Chill never quite closed the gap on the league-leading Chicago Fire Premier. Even a final day 1–0 home win over Des Moines was not enough, and the Chill finished the season a much closer 4th, six points off the playoffs. Wesseh and Ron Badanai were Chill's top scorers, with 17 goals between them, while Mike Kolinski contributed 5 assists.
Chill continued their improvement through 2004, but a lack of consistency remained their downfall. Chill seesawed their way to five wins and five defeats in their opening ten games of the campaign, taking nine points off the Indiana Invaders and the Wisconsin Rebels, but losing twice to the Des Moines Menace on the road in Iowa, who became their fiercest rivals. Weather conditions in Ontario forced Chill to play their seven of their first nine games on the road, contributing to their patchy form. The second half of the season, in which the majority of the games were played at Chapples Park, generally turned more in Thunder Bay's favor: they overpowered Wisconsin Rebels 4–1, and sneaked a 5–4 victory over Des Moines off an injury-time winner from Doco Wesseh, but lost their two final regular season games at home to the Chicago Fire Premier. Chill finished fourth in the Heartland for a second straight year, seven points off the playoff positions. Doco Wesseh and Mike Kolinski were Chill's top scorers, with 6 goals each, while Wesseh also contributed 7 assists.
Thunder Bay finished fourth in the Heartland Division for the third straight year in 2005, albeit a full 21 points behind divisional champions Boulder Rapids Reserve. Their relative geographical isolation forced them to play their games as 2-game series, on consecutive days, which seemed to hurt their form. After a promising start to the season in which they overpowered Sioux Falls Spitfire 3–1 and 4–1, Chill lost five of their next six games on the road, including a trio of heavy defeats: 3–0 to the Des Moines Menace, 4–0 to the Chicago Fire Premier and 3–0 to the Fort Wayne Fever. Chill's form improved once they returned home to Chapples Park, overturning Fort Wayne 5–1 off a hat trick by Josiah Seton, registering a hard-fought 2–1 come-from-behind win over Des Moines, and emerging victorious from a bruising 5–3 encounter with Sioux Falls. Unfortunately for Chill, they staggered towards the finish line, losing two of their last three regular season games. Josiah Seton was Thunder Bay's top scorer, with 12 goals, and Guilherme De Souza contributed 6 assists.
Things fell apart for Chill in 2006, one of their worst seasons since joining the PDL. The team won just two games all year, and finished a distant 7th in the Heartland Division, three points behind their closest rival, the Colorado Springs Blizzard, and 33 points behind divisional champions Boulder Rapids Reserve. Their two wins were 2-1 over Sioux Falls Spitfire and 5-1 on the road at Indiana Invaders in which Guilherme De Souza scored a hat trick. The rest of the season they were out-fought and out-muscled: they fell 2-0 and 4-1 to their bitter rivals Des Moines Menace in their opening fixtures, threw away a 2-goal lead to tie 2-2 with Indiana in early June, conceded a last minute goal to Des Moines in their 3-2 defeat in early July, and were hammered 4-0 by the Chicago Fire Premier on the last day of the season. De Souza was the top marksman of a team which had trouble scoring goals - he found the net just six times all year, while Marcelo Santos contributed three assists.
Chill started the 2007 with a bang. They rattled off four wins in their first five games of the season, including a 3-1 opening day road victory over the Sioux Falls Spitfire, and a 3-0 win at home over the Springfield Demize. The key man was striker Brandon Swartzendruber, with a pair of braces in Chill's 5-0 and 6-0 drubbings of Springfield in late June and mid-July, a hat trick in their 4-0 win over the Des Moines Menace, and another pair in a 2-1 win over the Menace on the last day of the regular season. That final day victory also secured the Heartland Division title for Thunder Bay by three points over the second place St. Louis Lions, and confirmed their trip to the PDL post-season for the first time. However, they lost their conference semi-final 3-1 to the Chicago Fire Premier. Swartzendruber was of course Chill's top scorer, with 16 goals, while Gustavo Oliveira contributed 15 assists.
The 2008 season was even better. Thunder Bay lost just two games all season, and finished their regular season campaign top of Heartland Division for the second straight year, 13 points clear of their nearest rivals, the Colorado Rapids U23's. Both losses came against the Des Moines Menace, 3-1 on the second day of the season, and 5-1 on the road at the end of a trek to Missouri and Iowa in which Chill played six games in eight days. In almost every other game, Chill outclassed their opponents, with Swartzendruber leading the way. They registered a number of impressive victories, including 5-0 over the Kansas City Brass, 3-0 over the St. Louis Lions and the Springfield Demize, and a superb 4-game home stand at the end of the season in which they scored 14 goals, including a 5-1 hammering of Springfield in the penultimate regular season game. Chill headed to the post-season ranked second in the country, and dispatched the Colorado Rapids U23's by 3-1 in the divisional playoff round before making the trip to Pontiac, Michigan for the Central Conference tournament. They overcame Cleveland Internationals 2-0 in the semi-final despite playing the second half with nine men, and hammered the surprise finalists Kalamazoo Outrage 4-0 to take the Central Conference title. Western Conference champions Vancouver Whitecaps Residency travelled to Chapples Park for an all-Canadian national semi-final; Alvaro Zendejas scored a 90th-minute winner in front of 1,546 fans to send Thunder Bay to the PDL Championship game for the first time. Defending champions Laredo Heat awaited them in the televised final; Thunder Bay had Scott Milroth sent off in the second half, but managed to hold Heat to a 1-1 tie thanks to Gustavo Oliveira's goal, and won the resulting penalty shoot-put thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Stephen Paterson. Swartzendruber and Jeremy Gold were Chill's top scorers, with 22 goals between them for the season.
Notable former players
This list of notable former players comprises players who went on to play professional soccer after playing for the team in the Premier Development League, or those who previously played professionally before joining the team.
|2000||4||PDL||6th, Heartland||Did not qualify|
|2001||4th, Heartland||Did not qualify|
|2002||6th, Heartland||Did not qualify|
|2003||4th, Heartland||Did not qualify|
|2004||4th, Heartland||Did not qualify|
|2005||4th, Heartland||Did not qualify|
|2006||7th, Heartland||Did not qualify|
|2007||1st, Heartland||Conference Semifinals|
|2009||2nd, Heartland||Divisional Semifinals|
|2010||1st, Heartland||National Final|
|2011||1st, Heartland||National Semifinals|
|2012||1st, Heartland||Conference Semifinals|
|2013||1st, Heartland||National Final|
|2014||3rd, Heartland||Did not qualify|
|2015||2nd, Heartland||Conference Semifinals|
|2016||2nd, Heartland||Conference Semifinals|
|2017||1st, Heartland||National Final|
|2018||5th, Heartland||Did not qualify|
|2019||4||USL League Two||3rd, Heartland||Did not qualify|
- 2005: 551
- 2006: 1,046 (sixth in PDL)
- 2007: 744 (ninth in PDL)
- 2008: 567
- 2009: 548
- 2010: 794
- 2011: 599
- 2012: 539
- 2013: 783
- 2014: 615
- 2015: 695