When the Thunder Bay Chill joined the Premier Development League in 2000, they made history by becoming the first soccer franchise in western Ontario. Fast forward 17 years, the club continues to perform at a high level both on and off the field.
Founded by Tony Colistro, the Chill currently compete in the Heartland Division of the PDL. Over the years, the franchise has garnered multiple titles – PDL champions (2008), Central Conference champions (2008, 2010-13), Heartland Division champions (2007-08, 2010-13) – and has helped countless talented players reach the professional level. Among the club’s distinguished alumni include Colorado Rapids defender Axel Sjöberg and San Jose Earthquakes defender Shaun Francis.
“First and foremost, our success is in the community,” Colistro, who now serves as the Director of Soccer Operations, told USLPDL.com. “We have certainly seen great success in PDL competition, with a national championship in 2008 and appearances in 2010 and 2013, making the playoffs every year since 2007 – except 2014 – and winning six Heartland Titles. But in the community, our players spend four days a week, three hours a night coaching our recreational youth players. This is a philosophy very important to our club, as we believe the best players have to work with the young, upcoming talent. We also feel it is important for our players to stay grounded and to remind them what this game is about – having fun.
“Every night, to see our PDL players coaching 1,000s of young players is always a great memory because you can see the smiles on the kids and how they look up to the players.”
The Chill players have been providing youth talent with unforgettable experiences for years, but they have also been able to enjoy many fun moments on the field in the PDL.
“Obviously, the greatest memory was the night in Laredo when we won our first PDL title and became the first-ever Canadian team to win the PDL,” Colistro said. “The 2010 and 2013 finals were a great experience as well, and while we did not win, anytime you go that far is a great feeling.”
As Colistro notes, there are many people who have helped the Chill reach this point in their history, including countless volunteers.
“John Marrello, who has been the General Manager since inception, continues to work tirelessly to ensure that this club operates on the professional level,” Colistro said. “Saverio Lento is another key staff member who works as our Youth Director and oversees our youth coaches to ensure players have a direct path to the PDL team. Sav was a former youth player and PDL player in the club.”
The Chill came into existence, Colistro says, to offer high-quality soccer as entertainment for the Thunder Bay community. Led by Head Coach Giovanni Petraglia, the club is eager to build upon its successes and work towards strengthening the game in the community and Canada.
“The PDL is important as it provides an opportunity for players to compete at a high level, preparing them for college as well as professional opportunities,” Colistro said. “In Thunder Bay, the PDL works. Geographically, our location sits in Central Canada with the closest major city eight hours away in Winnipeg and then Southern Ontario which is 16 hours away in our own province. Playing in the PDL allows us to compete south of the border – which is more realistic for us to go North or South to find competition and not East or West with our vast geographic region in Canada.”