SAULT STE. MARIE -- After taking a leave of absence last year, Elliot Lake's Junior Hockey team is coming back with major changes to its organization.

The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL) team, formerly known as the Wildcats, has changed its name to the Red Wings, taking inspiration from Detroit's National Hockey League team.

"Last year, we took a one-year leave of absence from the league due to COVID and it was a difficult decision to make, but we felt it was in our best interest," said Len Kutchaw, president.

Kutchaw said the team's troubles started long before the pandemic, however, with arena-related issues and on-ice play.

"Some nights, I think we were practising social distancing before it became in vogue because our attendance was pretty darn low," he said.

The team's new management said the decision to rebrand as the Red Wings was meant to signify a new direction for the club.

The team said it especially wants to work toward recapturing the magic it saw a few years ago, with the team representing much more than in bigger cities.

"There are very few events in this community where you're going to get 300, 400, 500 people out on a regular basis to an event," said William Elliot, team director.

The team said it's looking to get more creative in its player recruitment process this year.

It's also hoping to get its training camp underway by June.