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 fo 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,... Read More