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A 2018-19 BLUE OX HOCKEY PUBLICATION PHOTOS BY ERIC WICKLUND • LEARN MORE ABOUT BLUE OX HOCKEY AT BLUeOXHOCKEY.COM

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#INTHISISSUE 04 05

bruce boudreau Meet the Owner/Partner

JAY WITTA Meet the Owner/ Partner/GM/Coach

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A Unique Ownership By Michael Russo

A FAMILY AFFAIR By Dan Myers

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blue ox billet experience By Paula Marty

meet the ox

Blue Ox Player Roster

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USPHL ADVANCING CAREERS By Joshua Boyd

A GROWING PATHWAY

USPHL Midget Divisions

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warrior hockey history

By Tim Loney

PLAYER AUTOGRAPHS

Collect the signatures of your favorite players

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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BRUCE BOUDREAU MINNESOTA BLUE OX OWNER / PARTNER Bruce Boudreau is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and coach. He is currently the head coach of the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild and formerly the head coach of the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks. As a player, Boudreau played professionally for 18 seasons, logging 141 games in the NHL and 30 games in the World Hockey Association (WHA). He played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Black Hawks of the NHL and the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA. Boudreau won the Jack Adams Award for the NHL’s most outstanding head coach in the 2007-08 NHL season during his tenure with the Capitals.

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Thin The Herd // 2018-19

Bruce will be helping in all aspects of the Blue Ox business and specializing in player skill development, team systems, etc. Boudreau has owned and operated a youth camp in St. Catherines, Ontario called The Golden Horseshoe Hockey School. Started by Bruce in 1982 and taken over in 2015 by his 3 sons Ben, Andy, and Brady, they set out with the intention to make learning the game fun and give kids a great summer hockey experience. 35 years later, their primary focus is still the same. Their professional coaching staff, alongside their motivated support staff, provide an opportunity to learn the game of hockey and develop in a pressure-free environment. Bruce currently resides in Woodbury, Minnesota with his wife Crystal and Blue Ox goaltender Brady.


Blue Ox Hockey

JAY WITTA MINNESOTA BLUE OX OWNER / PARTNER / GM / HEAD COACH Coach Witta completed his 3rd year of Junior A’ coaching and inaugural year with the Blue Ox, finishing with an impressive 33-11-4 record and a consistent top 10 Tier 3 national ranking all season. The Blue Ox also promoted one player, Finnish defenseman Oskari Halme, to the NCDC Tier 2 level, as well as advanced four age out players onto college hockey. During his prior two seasons, Witta had been the head coach of the NA3HL’s Junior A’ hockey team – New Ulm Steel. Witta completed a 67-33-10 two year record with a Silver Cup semifinal appearance 2015/16 and a Western Division playoff final loss to the eventual National Champion, Granite City 2016/17. The Steel also completed a relocation transition from White Bear Lake to New Ulm 2017 with the smoothest of ease. Jay worked daily with the Steel ownership in all aspects of the business – budgets, league communications, recruiting, trades, facilities, core value accountability, parent communication, and player advancement. During his two year stint with the Steel, Witta helped promote over eight players to the NAHL/TIER 2 LEVEL as well as seven players onto NCAA and ACHA college hockey.

Witta, a Minnetonka, Minnesota native, played three years for the Minnetonka Skippers from 1985-87 where he was named captain his Senior season and helped guide the Skippers to their first ever Lake Conference Championships and was honored with an All-Conference Team selection. Witta was recruited by Herb Brooks at St. Cloud State University in 1987 to play on the inaugural SCSU Division 1 squad. After entertaining offers from various Division 1 and D3 programs across the country, Witta chose to stay close to home and attend St. Cloud State University as a walk-on defenseman. Witta also played Junior A’ hockey in Humboldt, Saask. for the Broncos (SJHL) before an undetected heart issue caused him to retire and return back to Minnesota. Witta has been coaching for the past 20 seasons and served on the Minnetonka Youth Hockey Board for 2 years – Jay also worked with Dave Snuggerud at Breakaway hockey to help form the first ever Breakaway AAA ’97 training team. Witta resides in Minnetonka with his wife Sara and their four boys. Bennett, Brody, Brooks and Griffin.

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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A UNIQUE OWNERSHIP By MICHAEL RUSSO

Bruce Boudreau’s ambition is simple: To keep kids playing hockey. The hockey lifer began his Golden Horseshoe Hockey School in Ontario 36 years ago and it was purely because he didn’t want young hockey players to quit once they realized they probably wouldn’t fulfill their dreams of one day making it to the NHL. There are so many other places players can strive to play competitive hockey, whether that’s juniors, colleges, myriad North American pro leagues and, of course, throughout Europe. He wanted to keep kids learning the game. He wanted to keep kids loving the game. “I really believe I was put on the Earth to promote the game, so everywhere I’ve gone I’ve tried my best to promote hockey and make it bigger,” said Boudreau, who behind only Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman owns the second-best points percentage (.654) as a coach in NHL history. “And this was an opportunity that really allowed that to happen.” Boudreau’s ties to Minnesota only included a brief stint decades ago with the WHA Fighting Saints and one year coaching the Wild. But he still had a desire to give back to the State of Hockey. So, the opportunity Boudreau is referring to? Helping launch the expansion Blue Ox into the United States Premier Hockey League in 2017 with his wife, Crystal and local marketing business owner and coach Jay Witta. Witta used to coach the New Ulm Steel in the NA3HL. In April 2017, Witta met up with Boudreau and broached the subject of going in together on a junior team. “He looked at me and goes, ‘Find us a team, and I’m in,’” Witta said. A week later, Witta called Boudreau and said, “I found a team.”Months later, the Tier III expansion team was debuting in Coon Rapids with Witta serving as head coach and general manager and Crystal Boudreau running pretty much the entire business operations. Bruce’s role besides the financial commitment? King cheerleader. During the Blue Ox’s season, Boudreau often attends games and sometimes even collects tickets. When Blue Ox games conflict with Wild games, he’s getting constant text updates from his wife and hilariously updates local Wild reporters on just how the Blue Ox are doing. “I want to just promote hockey, and I think we’ve done that,” Boudreau said. “We started the Blue Ox really fast last year, but the second year, especially in the offseason, it has gone so much easier than the first season because people didn’t know. “They didn’t know if we were staying, coming or going, but I think from sponsorship and everything else it’s gone up by a lot. And the people know who the Blue Ox are. Name recognition is so much greater this year. This time last year people were asking, ‘What are you smoking?’” The Blue Ox rosters 25 players ranging from Minnesota, North Dakota, all throughout the United States and Canada and even Europe.

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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A UNIQUE OWNERSHIP CONTINUED

“Our team has become a destination for players,” said Witta. “It’s because of how we run the team, the culture from the top down. All the things that are kind of lacking in junior hockey, that’s not the case here. Our goal, is not to just run a Tier 3 Junior A’ hockey team. We want to run a mini-NHL team, do it right and make the player experience off the charts. The players here know they will be treated well and be given an honest chance to develop their game, that is rare in Junior A’ hockey.” Boudreau’s hope is to one day add a youth program, an Under-16 and Under-18 team and a Tier II team like other programs across the USPHL. In the summer of 2018, Boudreau’s youngest son, Brady, a goalie on the Blue Ox, launched an off-shoot of his dad’s hockey school right at the Coon Rapids Ice Center. “The city here has worked tremendously with us,” Boudreau said. “It’s become a family thing, too, and I’m real proud of it. For six bucks, kids can get in to a Blue Ox game. That’s pretty good in today’s world, you can’t get anything for six bucks.” Junior hockey’s landscape has changed rapidly in the last 20 years, so even Division III college programs want their incoming freshmen to have a few years of junior hockey under their belt, Witta said. “Our younger kids are looking to move up a tier and still maybe dream of Division I and the rest of them want to play Division III college hockey,”

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said Witta, who once upon a time captained the Minnetonka High School Skippers. “These are guys out to prove something or maybe they were a late bloomer. It’s a great level. They’re hungry. “Advancement is one thing that is awesome, but a great hockey experience is priceless.” And, there’s always success stories. Before Boston University, the Wild’s Charlie Coyle played in the league as a 17-year-old for the South Shore Kings in Foxboro, Mass. He finished fifth in league scoring and called it a “great experience.” In fact, Coyle says he still uses the Kings’ strength and conditioning coach, Brian McDonough, as his personal trainer. A few years ago, Witta had a Swiss player named Yannick Zehnder play Tier III hockey in White Bear Lake. Two winters ago, Zehnder lit it up with eventual No. 1 overall NHL pick Nico Hischier for Switzerland in the U20 world junior championships. Goalie Adam Carlson, who never even played varsity hockey at Edina, played for the Steele County Blades, ultimately got a full ride to Mercyhurst and recently signed with the Washington Capitals. This past summer, the Wild brought 20-year-old Finnish Blue Ox defenseman Oskari Halme to development camp on a tryout. “Scouts go everywhere to find players,” Boudreau said. “Somebody that might not be ready at 17 may all of a sudden flourish in a league like this at 18, 19 or

Thin The Herd // 2018-19

20. You can at some point catch that diamond in the rough or can go on to Division I or bigger and better things. “This is the State of Hockey, and my family wants to be Minnesotans. So if we can get involved in the minor and junior hockey level, I think that’ll be great for long after I’m done coaching.” As important as teaching the players and letting them get a grand experience, Blue Ox fans are having a ball, too. “It’s so good for the community,” said Todd Bushy, a Coon Rapids resident and father of six boys. “It’s just great. Tailgating in the parking lot, and such a good atmosphere inside.” Bushy loves the commitment from Boudreau and the ownership. “Right from the news conference, Bruce got on the ice and took pics with the kids and signed my son’s goalie stick,” Bushy said. “He’s been just first class all the way. He even walked for miles and sat on our Coon Rapids Youth Hockey float at our parade last summer. He didn’t have to do that, but he signed every autograph ever asked. He was just unbelievable.”


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Michael Russo covers the Minnesota Wild and National Hockey League for The Athletic. He has covered the NHL since 1995. He co-hosts the Russo-Souhan Show on talknorth.com and can be heard on KFAN (100.3-FM) and seen throughout the hockey sea- son on Fox Sports North. Follow Russo on Twitter at @RussoHockey. Please consider a subscription to The Athletic. For a 30 per- cent discount ($3.49 per month), go to theathletic.com/michaelrussohockey.

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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Bailey Emery // ’98 Forward

Dan Myers covers the Minnesota Wild and National Hockey League for WILD.COM. He has covered the NHL since 1995. Follow Dan on Twitter at @DanMyers

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FAMILY BUSINESS IS A LABOR OF LOVE FOR BOUDREAU FAMILY By DAN MYERS

While hockey is a major part of many families in Minnesota, with the Boudreaus, hockey qualifies as the family business. And they wouldn’t have it any other way. What started out as a way to help make ends meet has turned into a true labor of love that spans the entire calendar year. Between the Golden Horseshoe Hockey Schools during the summer to the Minnesota Blue Ox during the winter, there is little time for a break for Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau and his family. Nearly four decades ago, Bruce Boudreau was toiling in the minor leagues, every once in a while, getting a call to have a cup of coffee in the National Hockey League. Even NHL stars weren’t making much money back then, and most minor leaguers needed another job to help make ends meet. Bruce didn’t want just any job, and he loved hockey, so he started his very first hockey school outside Toronto back in 1982. “We didn’t have a clue what we were doing,” Bruce said. “We didn’t have counselors; we didn’t have anybody until about a week before.”

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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A FAMILY AFFAIR CONTINUED

Along with the help of teammate Rocky Saganiuk and Toronto Maple Leafs equipment manager Brian Papineau, the three managed to pull off the camp. The next year, there was another school. And the following year. And the year after that. The location has changed, as have the people involved, but Bruce Boudreau has been on the one constant from the very first year. This past August, Bruce helped host the 36th edition of the Golden Horseshoe Hockey School in St. Catherines, Ontario. During that time, the Boudreaus have watched kids turn into adults, who then bring their own children to the camp. “It was fun for them, so they bring their kid,” Bruce said. “I know it’s fun because the whole idea is fun. But you get on the ice for 21 hours and you’re going to improve. Whether you want to or not, you’re going to improve. “I don’t believe that in five days, you’re going to make a kid into Bobby Orr. But if you let him skate and play and enjoy the game, they can’t wait for the season to start when this is done.” As the Boudreau family has moved around the country from stop to stop, contingents from those areas would become camp regulars. A group from Hershey, Pennsylvania still comes up because Bruce once coached there. The same with Washington, D.C. and

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from Southern California. Even now, the camp is trying to build its Minnesota base.

the fact that they want to pass along that love and passion for the game of hockey, it really is gratifying.”

“It used to be easy, because all the kids that played with Brady would [come to camp],” said Crystal Boudreau, Bruce’s wife. “As he’s grown up, those kids eventually age out of camp, but you’ll still get people from there who have heard about the camp [from people who have participated] and want to be a part of it.”

Brady’s involvement in hockey also helped spur the family’s winter passion. As owners of the Blue Ox, Bruce and Crystal are sharing their passion of the sport with the Coon Rapids community.

Brady Boudreau basically grew up at the camp, attending his first one as a newborn strapped to Crystal’s chest some two decades ago. He hasn’t missed one since, and this past season, began his own Golden Horseshoe “satellite camp” at Coon Rapids Ice Arena.

The main goal of the Blue Ox -- and with the summer hockey schools -- is helping to grow the game of hockey at all levels.

“He’s been around it his whole life, since he was 20 days old,” Bruce Boudreau said. “He knows what works and the Coon Rapids facility is really good for what he wants to do. It’s crazy how organized he is.”

With Bruce coaching the Wild, Crystal runs most of the day-to-day operations. Brady is one of the team’s goal- tenders.

“I’m such a hockey fanatic that, especially in the states, if I can help it in any way and grow and have kids that love to play hockey not end,” Bruce Boudreau said. “When I started hockey schools, the whole idea was the continuation for players to play hockey well after they knew they weren’t going to make the NHL.

It’s the third such satellite camp, joining Belleville, Ontario and Fort Wayne, Indiana, where another of Bruce’s sons, Ben, is a coach with the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL.

“When I did start the hockey schools, when you were 13, if you decided you couldn’t make it, then all of the sudden you weren’t playing and you weren’t playing for the enjoyment and love of the game. The more people we can do that with at that age, the better.

“It makes me very proud of the kids that they wanted to continue doing this,” Bruce Boudreau said. “Obviously, their experience at it was tremendous and

“Any time I can help grow hockey, it seems like I was put on this Earth to do. I’ve been at it all my life and I’d like to continue it.”

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“I DON’T BELIEVE THAT IN FIVE DAYS, YOU’RE GOING TO MAKE A KID INTO BOBBY ORR. BUT IF YOU LET HIM SKATE AND PLAY AND ENJOY THE GAME, THEY CAN’T WAIT FOR THE SEASON TO START WHEN THIS IS DONE.” - BRUCE BOUDREAU

Thin The Herd // 2018-19

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THE MN BLUE OX BILLET EXPERIENCE: A LOCAL FAMILY’S PERSPECTIVE By PAULA MARTY

We are the Marty Family: Darren, Paula, Olivia, and Will. Olivia is a junior at Coon Rapids High School. Will is in 8th grade at Coon Rapids Middle School and is a Bantam hockey player for Coon Rapids Youth Hockey. This is our second year billeting for the Minnesota Blue Ox. I was immediately interested when the opportunity to be a host family was presented to the Coon Rapids hockey community. I had two recurring thoughts. The first, “wouldn’t I want someone to share their home and support my children if they chose a similar path?” The second, “this is a great opportunity to show kindness and provide for a complete stranger.” Of course, the hope of having a big brother influence for my kids was an added bonus. After a family meeting to discuss everyone’s opinions, we all agreed it was the right decision. Our first billet son, Luca Perret, arrived August 18, 2017 from Bern, Switzerland. He was 19 years old, had never been in the U.S. longer than two weeks and was going to be staying with us up to 8 months. From the first night he slept in our house to this day and beyond he will forever be a part of our family. We celebrated Luca’s 20th birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter. We welcomed visits from Luca’s mom Christine, Grandma Suzanne, Dad Philippe and his friend Martin. We worked through parenting issues with him such as curfew, driving, and dating. We even toured a college campus in Iowa together. Luca was and still is a wonderful big brother influence to both my children. Olivia likes to call him her “favorite” brother.

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THE BILLET FAMILY This past summer our family stayed two weeks in France and Switzerland with Luca and his family. They showed us Europe through their eyes and shared their homes with us. The experience was unbelievable! We will cherish it forever. Our vacation also provided us the chance to meet our future billet Geoffrey Jaquet and his mother Marie-Joelle. Geoffrey Jaquet, our season 2 billet, arrived in Minnesota August 28, 2018 from Fribourg, Switzerland. He has lived in our home only two months and already we are very fond of him. He is a great big brother to Will and a welcome addition to our family. During each Blue Ox season both Luca and Geoffrey help coach Will and his teammates for Coon Rapids Youth Hockey. They attend practices, go to games, and support local fundraising efforts. We are so fortunate to have such extraordinary role models. Working with Jay Witta and Crystal Boudreau from the Blue Ox organization has been great! They are both diligent, dedicated individuals who want the best experience for the players, families, and fans. Attending games Friday and Saturday nights is a highlight for our hockey loving family. The hardest part of being a billet is saying goodbye. The players become your family. You let them drive your car. You stay up late worrying when they aren’t home. You wake them up when they miss their alarm. You take care of them when they are sick or injured. You share your faith with them and add them to your daily prayers. When they return to their own homes and families you take comfort knowing you played a role helping them follow their dreams. Our family is very thankful to the Blue Ox for giving us this opportunity. We’ve met some remarkable young men and their families. Our family has grown so much and shared so many fabulous experiences. We can’t wait to see where the adventure takes us next...

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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Brady Boudreau // ’98 Goaltender

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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BlueOxFinalRosterHandout 2018.qxp_Layout 1 1/8/19 6:50 PM Page 1

2018-19 MN BLUE OX PLAYER ROSTER PLAYER NAME

POSITION

HT

WT

SHOOT

DATE OF BIRTH

HOMETOWN

#2

CHRIS BRUHN (R)

d

5’11”

188

Right

Feb 24, 2000

Winkler, Manitoba

#4

ALEC SKRADSKI (R)

F

5’6”

150`

Right

Sept 10, 2000

Omaha, Nebraska

#5

GUNNAR GIBBS

F

5’ 11”

175

Right

June 22, 1998

Grand Forks, Nd

#6

SHANE FLAHERTY

d

6’4”

205

Right

April 28, 2000

Chahassen, MN

#7

HUNTER HANSEN

F

5’9

170

Left

Feb 19, 1999

vacaville, CA

#8

JON KOESTER

d

6’5”

195

Right

Jan 28, 1999

St. Charles, MO

#9

ERIC SWENSON

d

6’5”

215

Left

Sept 15, 1998

Chippewa Falls, Wi

#11

BAILEY EMERY

F

5’ 10”

165

Left

Jan 29, 1998

dassel, MN

#12

PHILIP SCHADER ‘C’

F

5’ 10”

170

Right

May 23, 1998

klagenfurt, Austria

#13

NICK MUELLER ‘A’

d

5’ 8”

165

Right

April 9, 1999

Buffalo, MN

#16

GRANT SMITH

F

5’6”

175

Left

April 20, 1999

Olathe, kS

#17

COLTON RYAN

F

6’ 1”

185

Right

dec 22, 1998

Coon Rapids, MN

#18

ALEX TIMM

F

5’10”

180

Right

Nov. 13, 1998

Sand Creek, Wi

#19

RYAN COBB

d

6’ 0”

185

Left

June 19, 1998

Apple valley, MN

#22

RILEY ENDERLE (R)

F

6’3”

190

Right

April 3, 2000

Plymouth, MN

#24

ERIC WORRE ‘A’

F

5’10”

165

Left

Oct 4, 1998

Chanhassen, MN

#28

BOWIE SLARKS (R)

F

6‘3”

220

Left

July 31, 1999

New Brighton, MN

#33

JOSH GREUNE

G

6’ 1”

175

Left

March 19, 1998

Raleigh, NC

#38

JOSEF ‘PEPA’ NUTIL (R)

d

5’11”

190

Left

Oct 15, 1999

Poděbrady, Czch Rep

#39

KYLE KESTER

F

6’ 1”

181

Right

May 30, 1999

Waconia, MN

#40

JOE SHAUGHNESSY (R)

F

5’ 10”

165

Right

April 23, 1999

Cedar Lake, indiana

#64

NICK SPOLEC

F

5’10”

170

Left

dec 28, 1999

kansas City, MO

#77

BRADY BOUDREAU

G

6’ 0”

175

Left

July 7, 1998

Woodbury, MN

#83

GEOFFREY JAQUET

d

5’11”

165

Left

March 8, 1998

Fribourg, Switzerland

#91

OLIVER DE CROOCK (R)

F

6’2”

195

Left

Feb 19, 1999

Lugano, Switzerland

(R) indicates rookie GENERAL MANAGER/HEAD COACH: JAY WiTTA

OX OPERATIONS:

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BLUE OX OWNERSHIP: BRUCE & CRYSTAL BOUdREAU, JAY WiTTA

VOICE OF THE OX: JEFF kEHR

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ASSISTANT OPS: TiM BROWN

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THE OXPOD - BEHIND THE HORNS: TRAviS CORNWELL

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ASSISTANT COACH: JASON WOOd

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BlueOxFinalRosterHandout 2018.qxp_Layout 1 1/8/19 6:50 PM Page 2

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D #2 CHRIS BRUHN

F #4 ALEC SKRADSKI

F #5 GUNNAR GIBBS

D #6 SHANE FLAHERTY

F #7 HUNTER HANSEN

D #9 ERIC SWENSON

F #11 BAILEY EMERY

F #12 PHILIP SCHADER

D #13 NICK MUELLER

F #16 GRANT SMITH

F #17 COLTON RYAN

F #18 ALEX TIMM

D #19 RYAN COBB

F #22 RILEY ENDERLE

F #24 ERIC WORRE

F #28 BOWIE SLARKS

G #33 JOSH GREUNE

D #38 JOSEF “PEPA NUTIL

F #39 KYLE KESTER

F #40 JOE SHAUGHNESSY

F #64 NICK SPOLEC

G #77 BRADY BOUDREAU

D #83 GEOFFREY JAQUET

F #91 OLIVER DE CROOCK

D #8 JON KOESTER

Proud member of the

11000 CROOkEd LAkE BLvd NW, COON RAPidS, MN 55433

BLUEOXHOCKEY.COM

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Gunnar Gibbs // ’98 Forward


Josh Grenue // ’98 Goaltender

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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Phil Schader // ’98 Forward


Eric Swenson // ’98 Defenseman

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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Geoffrey Jaquet // ’98 Defenseman

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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Alex Timm // ’98 Forward


THE USPHL ADVANCING CAREERS ACROSS THE BOARD By JOSHUA BOYD

As the NCAA college hockey season moved into November, there was barely a full month worth of games yet. In fact, many of the Ivy League teams played their first games the weekend just before Halloween. Even still, the impact of United States Premier Hockey League players across the NCAA realm has been fully realized in just that short amount of time. Among those most impressed were the players still working towards their college hockey dreams, such as Riley Prattson of the Boston Junior Bruins in the National Collegiate Development Conference. “Just last night, one of my former teammates from last year, Drew O’Connor, scored three points in Dartmouth’s season-opening [Oct. 27] win,” said Prattson. “Obviously, the league is helping people take steps to the next level, so that’s always a good thing.” From the first season of the NCDC alone, numerous players are skating at the NCAA hockey level this year. Looking at the alumni from USPHL Premier member teams of 201617 and the NCDC member teams of 2017-18, there are currently more than 400 former players out of the USPHL’s top division on rosters at the NCAA level. “Every time you step on the ice is an opportunity to prove yourself,” added Prattson, currently one of the top 20 scorers in the NCDC. Even at the top level of NCAA, former USPHL players are having a great impact. There were five teams led at the end of October by USPHL alumni. These are Dartmouth College (Drew O’Connor/Junior Bruins), the U.S. Military Academy (Dalton MacAfee/South Shore Kings), Mercyhurst University (Joey Duszak/P.A.L. Jr. Islanders), Northeastern University (John Picking/Junior Bruins) and the University of Maine (Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup/Junior Bruins).

A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication

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THE USPHL ADVANCING CAREERS ACROSS THE BOARD CONTINUED Former South Shore King Craig Pantano has established himself as a No. 1 goalie with Merrimack College, and was already named a Hockey East Defensive Player Of The Week. Ex-Junior Bruin Mike Robinson is the No. 1 goalie at the University of New Hampshire. Former Islanders Hockey Club standout Bobo Carpenter is the Captain of Boston University. Fourteen players from the NCDC last year posted at least one point in the first weekend of NCAA Division 3 play at the end of October, over which only a portion of teams at that collegiate level played games. The top level of the USPHL has also produced several players who have gone on to success beyond the college level. This includes such players as the Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (Junior Bruins), the Minnesota Wild’s Charlie Coyle (South Shore Kings), and a relative newcomer to the NHL, the St. Louis Blues’ Zach Sanford, a former Islanders Hockey Club standout who had six points in his first five NHL games this season. Simply put, the NCDC has established itself as a stepping-stone for impact players at the NCAA Division 1 and pro hockey levels.

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College Opportunities Abound Out Of USPHL Premier, Elite Divisions. Today, the USPHL Premier name is attached to the top Tier-3 level of the United States Premier Hockey League. This is one of the largest platforms for player development anywhere in the world, with 51 teams ranging over a footprint as far east as Maine, as far west as Minnesota and as far south as Florida. The USPHL Premier in 2017-18 featured the most NCAA Division 3 commitments of any U.S. junior league, with more than 160 moving on to that level. As aforementioned, the impact of these players at the NCAA Division 3 level is still mostly to be felt in future weeks and months, as that season has just begun. Even with that in mind, 19 players who skated in the USPHL Premier in 2017-18 had points for their teams in either one or two games played. The Premier Division also offers players opportunities to skate in the future for teams in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and American College Hockey Association (ACHA) club levels. Pete Flynn, head coach of the Detroit Fighting Irish, said that his job is to develop players for whichever level at

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which they can both make an impact on their college team and get a great education. “I’ve been around Tier-3 junior hockey for maybe 15 years. While the opportunities for advancement within the USPHL are there for my younger players, for us here in Detroit we mostly have older players. My job is to get them to college,” he added. “A little difference between us here in Michigan and the East Coast is there are NCAA Division 3 teams all over the East Coast, and not as many here. We are happy to work with ACHA and private colleges to provide advancement opportunities for our Fighting Irish players.” In the South, the teams have also been able to advance players to the NCAA and other college levels from such non-traditional hockey locales as Fort Myers, Fla. (Florida Eels), Hampton Roads, Va. (Hampton Roads Whalers) and Charlotte, N.C. (Charlotte Rush). Eels owner/general manager Frank Scarpaci explained how he has created a program that focuses not just on the hockey development - but with over 800 hours of training each year, there’s plenty of that - but everything from test prep to language lessons for its foreignborn players.


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ADVANCING CAREERS ACROSS THE BOARD CONTINUED “We have players in SAT and ACT test prep classes each Saturday at 8 a.m. and three hours each on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Scarpaci. “All our foreign players are taking English tutorials Tuesday and Thursday to prepare for Tofel and SAT training, plus Wednesday English conversational language. Now this is what we do to prepare our players to get into college. Any league of teams can play games, but few do what our league does beyond the rink.” Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings head coach Marty Quarters was thrilled to see two of his former players clash against each other in their NCAA Division 3 openers. Lebanon Valley College’s Kevin Van Bokkelen played from 2015-17, and Jake Gaydos (2017-18 Riverkings) played for SUNY-Cortland. “It’s great to see these Riverkings succeed in collegiate hockey, as they continue to build hockey up and down the river, and all the way to the East Coast,” Quarters added. The USPHL Elite of the last two seasons has been the moniker for the USPHL’s second level of Tier-3 hockey, but that league itself has seen college advancement. More than 20 players advanced directly into NCAA or ACHA college hockey this season from the USPHL Elite, typically a much younger league than the Premier. Stepping Up Within The Junior Leagues.

While the USPHL Premier’s chief destination is college hockey, some players currently in the NCDC have enjoyed making the transition from the USPHL Premier, such as Tyler Glennon. He was the leading scorer of last year’s New Jersey Rockets Premier team, posting 53 points. He also had a threegame call-up with the Rockets’ NCDC team in 2017-18 and is now a full-time member of that squad. Once again, Glennon is leading a Rockets team, as he was tied after 16 games for the NCDC team lead in scoring with 17 points. “Definitely, I think last year playing Premier was the right move for me,” said Glennon, a ’98 seeking a college opportunity for next season. “I had a little developing to do before playing NCDC. I had to play out some of my bad habits. There is always the chance to move from Elite to Premier to NCDC, and I wanted to try to take advantage of that opportunity.” Each NCDC team has Affiliate members in the USPHL Premier, which can send players up for practices with the NCDC team and potentially games as well. “We sent a few of our players up to the NCDC’s Islanders Hockey Club last year, and we’re hoping to set dates to do that again,” said Flynn, of the Detroit Fighting Irish. “My two players I sent there last year are both playing Tier-2 junior hockey this year, so it is a good program.”

The vast majority of USPHL Elite players from last season (roughly 150) advanced to the USPHL Premier for this season, moving up within the league’s multi-tiered structure.

Ryan Cobb // ’98 Defenseman

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A Growing Pathway USPHL Midget Divisions

The United States Premier Hockey League expanded its full-season 16U Division this year to 31 teams from 20 last year, and rebranded its former 16U Futures Division as the full-season 15U Division. The league also features a slightly expanded 18U Division, up to 20 teams from 18 last season. The full-season Midget divisions are becoming an increasingly more direct path to the NCDC. From last year’s 18U division, more than 50 players advanced directly to this year’s NCDC, and many teams in that division are developing their future players in-house, utilizing their 18U and 16U teams. For instance, there are eight former 18U and six former 16U P.A.L. Jr. Islanders players currently skating for the Jr. Islanders’ 2018-19 NCDC squad. James Zegel came up to the NCDC’s South Shore Kings from the 18U Division and was immediately the NCDC’s tallest player at 6-feet-7-inches. He has skated in the USPHL at the 16U, 18U, Elite and Premier levels before skating in the NCDC, with the majority of those games coming in the Midget Divisions. “I think it’s a really great league. All levels are really dominant,” said Zegel. “It was definitely a big jump from 18U to the NCDC. You just have to work hard in the gym and it’ll work out.” Brett Schneider, one of the New Jersey Hitmen 18U team’s top forwards, said he is excited to play within the USPHL and advance through its different tiers, especially if he can do so while staying with the Hitmen.

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“I love it up here, and I would love to keep playing here. I love all the kids, love the coaches,” said Schneider. “It was a big jump from the AYHL to here - there are a lot more kids, and a lot more [college-] committed kids. We have an NCDC team and hopefully I’ll move up to there, or maybe even Premier. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to move up one day.” Cade DeStefani, of the Junior Bruins, is one of just 10 players from the 2017-18 USPHL 16U Division to make the bold jump directly into the NCDC this year. “I think that’s obviously a big jump, but getting younger guys into the league is what they’re looking for, for the colleges,” said DeStefani, an ‘01 who also saw time with the Northern Cyclones’ NCDC team last year, up from their 16U squad. “I think the 16U Division really develops players well - it’s good competition up and down. All the teams are good and a lot of players move on from there to higher levels.” More than 60 players moved up from the former 16U Futures Division (now 15U) to the USPHL 16U Division of this year. The talent level that has played in the 16U Division is not lost on this year’s 15U players. Looking at 16U Division member teams of 2017-18, more than 40 players from those programs have gone on to NCAA Division 1 careers. Tristan Daneau, of the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders 15U team, wants to go to the Islanders’ 16U program, which currently counts among its alumni seven current NCDC players and six more in the Tier-1 junior realm. “That’s what I’m hoping for,” Daneau said. “I definitely have to build confidence, team play and keep working hard.”


Future advancement EHF Selects Division Opens New Doors

This is the first season for the USPHL’s split-season EHF Selects Midget Division, but it is already turning heads not just in its New England base of operations, but nationally.

be seen, but this could be yet another scouting ground for NCDC teams to develop players within the USPHL progression path, and onwards to the NCAA.

MYHockeyrankings ranked the Boston Jr. Eagles’ 18U team as its No. 1 Tier-1 team in the U.S. at that age level for four of the first five weeks of this season.

Matt Collins, head coach of the Cape Cod Whalers’ 15U team, ranked 17th nationally on Oct. 31, said he’s excited for the future of the EHF Selects and USPHL, in looking at the players on his team this year.

“You have the best guys here in Massachusetts on all those teams. It’s a good level of competition here,” said John Farinacci, a Harvard commit playing for the Jr. Eagles this fall. “Playing against these other good players from the Massachusetts area, [you can] keep getting better and develop yourself.” In addition, the EHF Selects featured five Top 20 18U teams in the MHR rankings of Oct. 31. There have also been two Top 20 16U Tier-1 and two Top 20 15U Tier-1 teams in the rankings out of the EHF Selects. With this being the first year of the EHF Selects, advancement remains to

“U15 is new, but I think it’s the future. I think the [EHF Selects/USPHL merger] makes sense - it’s good for the programs and good for the kids,” said Collins. “It’s a good chance for these kids to develop against better players. I’m a believer. [EHF Selects] is here, it works, it’s the best competition around and I’m happy to be a part of it.” Whether you’re one of the top 14-yearold players looking to take the next big step, or a 20-year-old close to making a college decision, the United States Premier Hockey League has a division for you - and a ladder to climb.

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WARRIOR HOCKEY HISTORY By TIM LONEY

Andy Qualy needed a new roommate, his first one, Jeremy Duncan had just been moved to Building 18 on the Walter Reed Campus so the other bed in his room at the Malone House was empty. While in the Warrior Transition Battalion recovering from wounds in 2006, Andy Qualy convinced Drew Hill to move into his room so that they would not have to move to Building 18. If they did they decided they go together. In the early part of their friendship Andy told Drew about how he had played hockey growing up and he convinced Drew to go to the Capitols Game. Drew grew up in southern Virginia and had never seen the sport. Opening day was the Capitals hosting the Tampa Bay Lighting. From first puck drop Drew was hooked! With nothing else to do while healing from their injuries Andy and Drew would go to every Capitols Game that year. Sometimes they would go on donated tickets others they would buy an upper level seat and go.. After the first Game Andy Called home to talk to his dad about the game.. “they have a Russian on the team“ he said.. “some guy named Alex Ovechkin”. It was Alex’s second season in the NHL.

2016 Festival National Champions

Disabled Hockey Festival 2012

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In 2007-2008 Walter Reed Army Hospital started doing Stick and Puck Skates as recreational therapy. Andy Had returned home to Minnesota and came off Title 10 orders and began an Active Duty Fore Special Work (ADSW) tour with the Minnesota National Guard and worked in J-1 Supporting the warfight as he continued to recover from his Injuries. Feeling better he took his hockey gear and would fly out to Washington DC. Drew had began to organize and in 2008 he suggested to Walter Reed Hospital to build this Recreational Hockey Therapy. Originally participants in the program were only Purple Heart Recipients and Walter Reed had lots of Veterans that had that qualification. Drew, with help from Walter Reed Army Hospital reached out to the local USA Disabled Hockey Representative and they became interested in developing a Warrior Discipline. They began doing weekly clinics at the ice Gardens in Laurel Maryland. The results were nothing short of amazing. A Warrior named Mark Little was skating on two prosthetic legs. Then a Warrior Named Michael Vaccaro joined the program and began to grow. Practices were not enough so they began to look for teams to play and they begin hosting charity games. Having kept in touch with Drew and seeing the fast growth of the USA Warriors, Drew suggested that Andy do something similar back in the state of Hockey.


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WARRIOR HOCKEY HISTORY CONTINUED

Drew talked to his contacts at USA Hockey and found out the Disabled Hockey Representative in Minnesota was a woman named Toni Gillen. So Andy reached out to Toni and they met for the first time in September 2009. After a good discussion it was decided to try to form a team in Minnesota. Toni knew they would need help and began to form a committee. One of the first people she reached out to was the treasurer of the Rosemount Hockey Association, a retired Lieutenant Colonel and Army Nurse Loretta Schlachata-Fairchild, who to this day is still the Treasurer. The First meeting to develop the Minnesota Warriors took Place in a small Hockey Pub on the corner of West 7th and North Walnut Street called Tom Reed’s Hockey City Pub. They would meet monthly until November. Andy went out searching for players. He connected with the Disabled Veterans of America (DAV) offices in Minnesota, He asked around the Minnesota National Guard and personnel in the Deployment Cycle Support Cell. He even went with SSG John Kriesel, a double amputee from the Red Bulls, on his Still Standing book tour across the state. Finding Players that met the criteria of the at the Walter Reed USA Warriors Model they saw things they needed to change. When a Service member is injured in Iraq or Afghanistan and enters the Military medical system as a patient they are stabilized and flown as fast as possible to Landstuhl Germany where they recover enough to be able to survive the Flight to America. In America the first Hospital they typically arrive at is Walter Reed Army Hospital. As the Patient heals and is able they

then move to military hospitals near their home of record, in Andy’s case the Minneapolis VA. This Model gave the USA Warriors a great base of people to play but as they would heal they need Places to play when they got home. In essence the USA Warriors were a feeder program to the other teams that would follow.. Andy, Toni, Loretta and other board members found that the requirement of having a Purple Heart was too restrictive and decided to expand eligibility criteria to wounded, injured or otherwise disabled Veterans in later that year. November 2010 the Warriors had four players, Andy, his brother Dave, Dave Thomas and Pete Hanson. They had fund raised, found equipment donations and bought 20 sets of Jerseys both Home and Away for the newly forming team. Built it and they will come. Next to Join was Riley Anderson. They were skating on donated Ice at the Vadnais Heights Sports Center and the Media Relations Board Member Chris Walden reached out to KARE11 television who did a story on the program. By the end of February ten more players had joined including Joe Scavo, Dean Jahn, Jason Steller and Justin Nelson. They did a few pickup games to get ready and in one in Elk River they found another Goalie named Al Lindgren. The Team was on track to participate in their first official game in the 2011 Disabled Hockey Festival which was being held at the Schwan’s Superrink in Blaine Minnesota. Their first opponent was the US Amputee Team. They Lost 4-3 on April 1, 2011. The US Amputee Team also played the USA Warriors, but no game was scheduled between the USA Warriors and the Minnesota Warriors.

Andy reached out to Vadnais Heights Sports Center and on Sunday afternoon April 3, 2011 the Minnesota Warriors recorded their first Win 6-3 over the USA Warriors. Over the Summer of 2011 the program grew to about 25 players including the first Females Sammi Korinek and Judy VanVoorhis. That Fall Andy was introduced to and met Larry Hendrickson. They got in touch with the Minnesota National Hockey League Alumni Team and planned the November 11, 2011 Alumni Game know as 11-11- 11. The event was held in Chaska and over 1,500 fans attended the game. Things Clicked with Larry Hendrickson and he began to help with funding. Andy spent many summer days at Larry’s Pool talking hockey and how to grow this Warrior team. That Summer the Warriors Marched in the Forest Lake 4th Of July Parade and held a Fire and Ice Exhibition Game at the Forest Lake Arena and were invited to the Law Enforcement Hockey Tournament. In April of 2012 they sent a team to the Disabled Hockey Festival in Dallas Texas. Buffalo became the third team to join and the tournament was again rounded out with the US National Amputee Team. Drew Hill had helped build the Buffalo Team with the help of the Buffalo VA. Drew was from the 10th Mountain Division which is stationed at Fort Drum. NY where he was on Active Duty. It was not till 2010 that he returned there. 2012 also saw the growth of the Minnesota Warriors that they split into two teams Green and White. The White Players were the more advanced and skilled players and the Green where more recreational. They did not always have enough players available

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for some events so a “bubble Player� system was developed so some Green Players would skate up and some White Players would skate down. Fundraising exhibition games were played in all corners of the state. In August of 2012 the Green Team played Crazy Troop in Duluth Minnesota and while there were not a lot of fans in the arena the media again picked up on the game and future seeds of growth were planted. In exhibition games the Warriors would travel to on a weekend and play local teams. They would be a small admission charge and donations to help In early 2013 I was introduced to the Warriors via Toni Gillen. I had gone to

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see a hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center and she was siting in my Wild Hockey seats with her kids. She told me about the program and I joined in March 2013. In June of 2013 the Warriors had 20 Active Players on the Green team, Seven Bubble players, and 17 Active players on the White team. They also had 18 players listed as inactive for a grand total of 64 personnel. In the Fall of 2013 the Warriors Placed a team in League Play. The Green Team was entered in the Adult Hockey Association (AHA) leagues at the C2 Level and skated to a 6-11-2 record. In addition, exhibition games for the White team were held in Fergus Falls, Moorhead, Warroad and Roseau.

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During the Spring and Summer of 2014 the Board approved creating new recruiting and marketing materials. Tim Loney reached out to Rod Wilson of Andrews Photography and arranged a photo shoot of Gabe Thomas in both his combat uniform and Warrior Uniform holding his weapon and Stick. Using a little Photoshop, Rod combined the photos into one Image and the new face of Warriors Hockey was born. The image went on literature, Posters and even a trailer which was donated by Tee It Up For the Troops. Many prospects joined that summer and it was decided to split into a Third Team called Black. Black was for developmental players of the sport of Hockey and that Fall


the Black Team Joined the Green Team in the AHA with Black playing D1 level and Green playing C3. The Black team finished the season 1-17-1-1 and the Green team 16-3-1. The Disabled Hockey Festival was held in Boston that year and Minnesota, Buffalo, USA Warriors and the National Amputee team competed. Minnesota Lost All three games we played in and the Standing National Amputee team was crowned champion. We looked forward to the next year as we fundraised. The Festival was scheduled to be in Detroit and it was decided to try to send two Teams. Again, we had two teams in the AHA. In January we

had a recruiting table at the Minnesota VFW Mid- Winter Conference held in Minneapolis. The booth was maned by AL Lindgren and Tim Loney, with the help of Chris Price. In town representing the VFW National Headquarters was the Junior Vice Commander Brian Duffy. Brian was a Hockey nut! And He fell in love with our program and saw the benefits such a program could do. Brian invited us to have a booth at the 116th VFW National Convention in Pittsburgh, PA. He wrote a Grant to the VFW to help fund our booth and travel. The 2015 Disabled Hockey Festival held in Buffalo New York added new teams from Michigan and Chicago Blackhawks and Buffalo having two teams and the

Standing Amputee team. Missing for the first year was the USA Warriors. Back in Minnesota Andy Qualy was playing for the University of St Thomas Club Team, which he did for two seasons. Over the Summer we had our booth in Pittsburgh and met a gentleman named Daryl Root from Utah. Daryl went back home with our packet of information and with our help began the Wastasch Warrior program. We used that information to try to influence others saying hey if Utah can have a team why can’t your state?? At The convention Brian Duffy was elected Senior Vice Commander for the VFW and he extended an invitation to the convention in Charlotte, NC.

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MN WARRIORS 2016 was a huge growth year for The Warrior program. In the Alumni Game held in Richfield Wes Waltz told Warrior Goalie Jerry Miron “to hold still we are trying to shoot off your pads and make you look good but you keep moving”.. Many NHL Alumni players said the games with the Warriors were their favorite games they looked forward to. Tommy Younghands and I played together, and I remember going into the corner against Jack Carlson. They made the experiences fun for us and the crowd. The Minnesota Wild Foundation challenged us with a grant for building new teams and expanding. We targeted Duluth. On of the first players in the area was a retired Nave SeeBee named Jeff Dwyer. Jeff would travel down the cities for events and was really excited with the program. He was selected to be on one of the two teams we sent to Detroit Michigan for the Disabled Hockey Festival. Entering both an A and B Division Teams, Minnesota came home with both Championship Banners, which hang in rink 6 at the Schwann’s Superrink. Jeff recruited many players in Duluth and the Duluth Warriors grew to fifty players in a very short time. On the National side of expansion, Chris Price and Tim Loney traveled to Charlotte North Carolina for the 116th National VFW Convention. There Brian Duffy was elected National Commander and we discussed having the VFW host a National Tournament. Regretfully we were not able to get the logistics arranged to

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hold the tournament but talks continue to this day. Later that Summer USA Disabled Hockey officially recognized Warriors as a discipline. Last Year the Wild Foundation challenged us again with a Grant to expand. We targeted St. Cloud. While we did not meet the timeline the Foundation requested, we did land a fantastic recruit, another Navy SeeBee this time by the name of Curt Wilson. After competing in the Minnesota Armed forces Tournament, he and Bill Thorpe talked to players on opposing teams which lead to a Try Hockey Night at in St. Cloud. Four Metro Warriors went to the skate that night over 15 players signed up. Many had played Hockey Finder in St Cloud and did not know they guy they were skating with were vets. They held their first game in July and the bulk of the Team made up the Roster for this years Warrior Classic in Las Vegas. The History of the Warriors continues to be written every day. Currently we have over 150 Players in Minnesota and at the Warrior Classic Sponsored by Terry Fator it was decided to form a National Committee to help expand and self-govern the Warrior Division of USA Disabled Hockey. Michael Vacaro heads the committee and teams which have participated in National Tournaments can appoint two people to the committee. Soon the past Minnesota Warrior’s President Chris Price’s dream of a team in every state will become a reality.


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Eric Worre // ’98 Forward


Colton Ryan // ’98 Forward

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