Minnesota Blue Ox – Thin the Herd – Volume 3 – 2020-2021

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#INTHISISSUE 04 05 BRUCE BOUDREAU Meet the Owner/Partner

JAY WITTA Meet the Owner/ Partner/GM/Head Coach

07 11 A UNIQUE OWNERSHIP By Michael Russo



MEET THE OX Blue Ox Player Roster

26 31 FUTURE SPORTSCASTER By Fletcher Anderson




By Dayna Landgrebe

By Mark Jendro

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Bruce Boudreau is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and coach. He was most recently 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. Bruce helps in many aspects of the Blue Ox business specializing in recruiting, player skill development, team systems, etc. Bruce and Crystal purchased a new franchise in Hershey, Pennsylvainia, in January of 2021. The Hershey Cubs will be playing


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in the USPHL Premier Division starting Fall of 2021-22. Ox coach Witta is a minority partner in the Cubs and the two teams will still work very closely together to help develop players and give them a great Junior hockey experience. 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 Hershey, Pennsylvainia with his wife Crystal and his New Foundland dog, Dixie.

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Coach Witta completed his 6th year of Junior A’ coaching and his 4th year with the Blue Ox this season. The Blue Ox squad finished with its 2nd National Tournament appearance in three years, with an impressive 38-15-2 record. During his first two seasons of coaching Junior A’ hockey, Witta had been the head coach of the NA3HL’s Twin City Steel and New Ulm Steel. Witta completed a 67-33-10 two year record with a Silver Cup semifinal appearance in 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 24 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.

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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.

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“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,”


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

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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.

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THE GOLDEN HORSE SHOE A LABOR OF LOVE FOR BOUDREAU FAMILY BY DAN MYERS 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

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.”

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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 37th 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


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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Having finished one major life chapter in 2016, we thought we were settling in, just the four of us, into a new, post-military, retired life in Minnesota. Fast forward barely a year later and news came out that the Boudreau’s were partnering up and starting a new junior hockey team, The Blue Ox, here in Coon Rapids. My husband Mark started communicating with Crystal, asking how we could serve the new team. The Ox were having their first main camp in July 2017, so on our way home from a family camping trip, we stopped at the rink to talk to Crystal about what volunteer opportunities there were, if any. We overheard Crystal talking to someone about billeting so when it was our turn to have her ear, we asked what billeting was, a term that was new to us. Crystal explained that we would house the player and treat them like a nephew living with us, proving them a schedule when they could do laundry and a dinner schedule as well as other things. Honestly, in my head I was too hung up with the dinner piece of this to hear anything else. Dinner schedule? I was quick to say that this wasn’t the right time for us as we were still trying to figure out our new life, but we would love to help out at games. Housing another kid, no problem. Feeding another kid wasn’t the problem so much either, but feeding an athlete was beyond what I felt we/I could do. Our kids, Jack and Anne, were younger and as a busy hockey family, we were eating a lot of Subway since it allowed us to eat together in the small windows we often had. I’m certain that eating Subway wasn’t what a junior hockey player was hoping for. Not to mention, there is no way it would keep them full with a Sub. Mark was a little disappointed that we were passing on what could be a cool experience, but he was still happy we could be involved and volunteer our time to the team. I am a runner and am pretty crazy about it, but my daily run is when I have uninterrupted time to talk to God and pray about life. I spent many runs praying over this decision. Were we supposed to open our home to a complete stranger?


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How would this impact our kids, our family? What if this kid didn’t click with us? The what if’s were endless, really. I finally told Mark that if a need was posted on social media again, we were in. Well, the post came and he jumped so fast, not allowing me a chance to second guess the decision. Thank you to the Blue Ox Facebook page administrator for the post. While Mark was excited, I was still so nervous. The what if’s kept coming.

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However, the decision was made, so we cleaned the spare bedroom out and were given our player assignment. Eeek, it was even more real, we were having another kid, just an older kid who we were just a safe place for. Or were we only a safe place? We started communicating with our players parents and prepared for move in day which is also, nice to meet you, welcome to your new home day. The day we pledge to the players parents to look after, support and cheer for their son. Our first player, Chris, came from New York. Chris and his family were super nice and we felt an immediate comfort and connection with them. Chris very quickly became the big brother we didn’t know our family was missing. He made a point of doing everything with our entire family. He even helped coach our son’s hockey team, which is super cool to squirt players. It wasn’t just a hockey relationship where we would go to all of his games, we did life together for nearly 7 months. He attended every event for his new little brother and sister without hesitation. Our kids, okay all of us, fell in love and were thankful for that season on ice and in our life. After the tears dried, we made plans to see him again so that summer after he left, we drove up to New York and spent a few days with his family where they showed us around Buffalo and their hometown. The kids were over the moon to see their brother and hang out with him and once again ride in his cool jeep. Mark and I were so happy to be reunited with him and his parents, who quickly became our friends. They even named two of their doves after the kids while we were there. After such an amazing season, we were looking forward to billeting again. There was no way we were going to pass on what could be another amazing life experience. Once again, on the way back from our family camping trip we stopped at the Ox camp to meet our new not kid, kid. This time we got a returning player the kids enjoyed from the previous year. They even had a nickname for him from when he climbed a tree at our house during the pasta feed that we had hosted. This time we were housing our neighbor, we got a kid from Wisconsin! Eric was super nice and the kids had fun playing with him. Not only did Chris do whatever my kids wanted, Eric was up for some fun times with them as well.

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We may have said it was just stuff he had to do as their brother. There are pictures that I said I would never share from these moments, but trust me, these moments made lifelong memories my kids will never forget. Another season quickly came to an end and we were once again saying see you later. Eric was an age out so we knew we would be gaining another not kid, kid, we just didn’t know anything more than that. The third season we went international!! Abay came to play for the Ox all the way from Kazakhstan! He moved in and the next day he spent 10 hours volunteering with us at a golf tournament for the Hendrickson Foundation. No time to be tired, he was busy all day long. Nothing like, welcome to our family, we love volunteering and we hope you do to. He had many firsts while he was here, from his first NFL game, which he thought was funny, to a Twins game, Wild game, United game, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and many other American adventures with his teammates. Adding to the season of Thanksgiving, he joined us for a volunteer shift that started at 2am, preparing meals for those in need. We loved that he was always up for whatever adventure we proposed, no matter the time. His English was very limited when he arrived so communication was interesting to say the least, but holy smokes, he learned the language so fast! Once again, we were sad to see another season end, but so grateful for the time we had together. We were especially thankful that he was able to get out of the country and home just before borders closed due to Covid. Year four, what a year to embark on another journey. We sold our house right after Abay left and moved into our new home a month before our new bonus kid moved in. Mark likes to joke that I have always wanted more kids so he gets me a new one every year. I do worry about these boys like my own children and love them, so yes, they become my bonus boys. We now have two extra bedrooms so we could billet two boys. Yes, from ‘this is not for us’ to ‘can we have more,’ is how the last few years have played out. This season, due to Covid, one of our players couldn’t make the international trip so we were only getting one, or were we? Four years later and our fourth not kid, kid arrived. Daniel moved here from Roanoke, VA. Unfortunately, our adventures have been extremely limited due to the restrictions of life right now, but we have still enjoyed our time together. It has been fun watching him come out of his shell at home to his growth on ice. Coming from VA, winter sports are not what they are here so it’s fun to see him experience some good ole MN winter goodies as well. One of the MN Warrior hockey players, Nick Leach, who helps run the Warriors boot camp for the boys at the start of the season, brought him ice fishing for the first time ever. He has also been able to play a little pond hockey, as well as do a little downhill skiing for the first time.


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After the Thanksgiving break, we were excited to welcome one more player and fill the last bedroom. Zach, a returning player, is a fun addition to our family. Zach was super supportive of Jack during his final hockey season last year and was even there when Jack’s team was able to lift the district championship trophy. Youth teams always enjoy seeing the Ox players at the Ox games, but it’s even more exciting to have the Ox players at their games. Having another brother for the kids has been great. Zach was the perfect player to join our family and co-fill the bonus big brother role this season.


I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to serve the Ox as a billet family. I know I can speak for my entire family when I say, our family has loved every moment. We’ve taken trips, had adventures and got to meet people from all over the world because of the Ox. I’m sure my family would also agree, the hardest part of billeting is that you can’t keep the boys forever, they eventually go home. Saying good-bye, even when you know it’s really see you later, is so hard. Tears are shed, but the smiles and memories are worth every tear. I really didn’t think billeting was for me, even when my family knew it was for them. Boy was I wrong and I am so happy that this is the journey we are on. If you are on the fence or don’t think billeting is for you, think again, it really is amazing.

- Lana Jendro 4 year Billet mom


I would say having billet brothers has changed my life tremendously. All of the boys we have had were super fun. I remember the first year I was at school then I came home and there was a tall boy standing in our living room. But I never knew how much of an amazing impact he would have on my life. From then on I was so excited when we found out who we were billeting. It has truly been one of the best things and experiences being able to meet and host these boys. - Anne

I think that billeting for the Ox is fun and I like it very much. I feel that it opens opportunities to do more things with new people. The boys also are willing to hangout and play games with me. They also put in effort to come to games or meets to support me. So over all the Ox have made my life so much better. - Jack

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Alex Gracia // ’00 Forward

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Ville Andersson // ’00 Defenseman

Zach Earl // ’00 Forward

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As far back as I can remember, I always loved watching, reading, talking about, and playing sports more than anything. The running joke in my family is that I learned to read on the ESPN ticker at the bottom of the screen(Ok that might be true) and also grew up learning adding and subtracting with my dad quizzing me on the Wild jersey numbers. As the years have gone on, it’s become pretty evident that my role in life is to do something with sports, and I’ve always had a lot to say, so the logical choice was sports broadcaster. And while that still interests me, my attention has turned more to sports journalism, which is why I’m writing this and why I have my job with the Blue Ox. The other reason I have the job is my relationship with coach Jay Witta. I’m in the same grade(11th) as his twins, Brooks and Griffin, meaning I grew up playing hockey with them, with Jay as the coach for many of the years. While I may not have become the best hockey player, Jay definitely made me the best I could be on and off the ice. I started with the Blue Ox this fall as the cameraman/assistant to the announcer to gain some experience in the announcing field. For most of this season so far, it’s been filming the games and listening to the announcer and observing how he talks about the different aspects of the game and the players to get some experience. Recently, I had the opportunity to try announcing for myself for the first time. While being a very odd experience, talking to yourself while also talking to


other people simultaneously, it was fun after I got over the nerves. I’m looking forward to learning how to better commentate as well as film as I continue to work with the Blue Ox. My love for football started from a very young age, stemming from 2 major factors: Family friends that have season tickets to Notre Dame football, which resulted in a drive down to South Bend virtually every year since the mid 2000s. The other is a much more common reason, and thats the video game “Madden.” It started out playing on the Wii, one of the best consoles of all time, in 2009. But it was the next year, 2010, when Madden 11 released. I spent more time playing that game than I have with anything else in the rest of my life. Coming with that borderline addiction that I had with the game was memorization of teams, and then players. That sparked the interest in the actual NFL, where the addiction moved from the video game to the real thing. Since then, every Sunday has been blocked out for football watching. I’ve had some great sports experiences over my 17 years of life. I’ve been to the Super Bowl when it was in US Bank Stadium, met Tom Brady when he played against the Vikings in MN, and been to numerous Vikings and Patriots games to name a few NFL related ones. College wise, I was lucky enough to be at the Minnesota vs Penn St game this year, rush the field, and be in the locker room afterwards. I’ve also been to many Notre Dame football games, stormed

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the court twice for Minnesota basketball, and witnessed one of the best March Madness games of the decade, when Kentucky played North Carolina in the Elite 8 a few years back, when Luke Maye hit a midrange jumpshot to send them to the Final Four on their way to a national championship. My current goal when I graduate from Minnetonka is to attend Arizona State University to study Sports Journalism at their Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. I am currently in a program called VANTAGE, focused on Digital Journalism, and also writing a monthly sports article for a local paper called the Lake Minnetonka Navigator. After I graduate from college, I want to do some sort of coverage with either the NFL, college football, or college basketball, as those are my favorite sports to watch, whether it’s being a writer for a team, national writer, or broadcaster.

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Alec Skradski // ’00 Forward



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The United States Premier Hockey League, with its unparalleled multi-tiered development model, continues to be the perfect starting point towards a college hockey career. Research tracking the whereabouts of former USPHL players shows that there are more than 1,200 college hockey players who developed their on-and off-ice skills anywhere from the USPHL Midget Full-Season divisions up through the three-tiered USPHL Junior Hockey model. Along with development towards a college hockey future, the USPHL is also known for its internal promotion of players, and several hundred have moved up within the Midget and Junior leagues. More than 275 former USPHL Junior and Midget players are also currently playing professional hockey around the world. Alumni of USPHL Member Organizations currently in the NHL include the Buffalo Sabres’ Jack Eichel (Junior Bruins), the Boston Bruins’ Connor Clifton (Jersey Hitmen), the Pittsburgh Penguins’ John Marino (South Shore Kings) and Stanley Cup Champion and St. Louis Blues forward Zach Sanford (Islanders Hockey Club.)

NATIONAL COLLEGIATE DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE (NCDC TIER 2) The top of the pyramid is the tuition-free National Collegiate Development Conference, which has entered its third season and has already seen new college commitments for future seasons.There are currently 143 former NCDC players on NCAA Division 1 and Division 3 rosters. Prior to the 2017 formation of the NCDC, the USPHL Premier Division was the league’s top tier. There are more than 230 alumni of the USPHL’s top junior division currently playing NCAA hockey. More than 50 USPHL alumni earned season-ending awards from their individual conferences, along with nine being named as Hobey Baker Award Nominees. Former P.A.L. Jr. Islander Joe Duszak made it all the way to the Top Ten for Hobey Baker nominees. An early favorite for a similar honor this year is former South Shore Kings goalie Craig Pantano, who posted a 1.32 goals against average and .947 save percentage early in his first season with Northeastern, where he is a fifth-year player. Tim Doherty, a three-year Junior Bruins player, is on a career best 1.3 points-per-game pace, with nine through six contests at the University of Maine. These are just a pair of success stories born in the USPHL’s top division. Beyond the NCAA, the USPHL is proud of alum John Marino, who has become a regular with the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins after a three-year NCAA career at Harvard University. He played two full seasons with the Kings in the USPHL’s top tier.

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There are also players who move on from the top level to the American Collegiate Hockey Association, giving the USPHL’s top tier more than 325 alumni currently playing at all levels of college hockey.

USPHL PREMIER Today, the USPHL Premier Division is the league’s top level of Tier-3 junior hockey. It is also the largest Tier-3 league in the nation, ranging from Minnesota in the west to New England in the East, and all the way down the Eastern Seaboard to Florida. Although it may have a large footprint on the surface, divisional play and several showcases keeps travel light for the players, and provides college scouts more showcase opportunities than in any other league to see the best Tier-3 talent. That is one of the main reasons why the USPHL Premier, in the last two years alone, has produced 240 NCAA athletes - including Jacob Zab, who rode a strong year with the Pittsburgh Vengeance to an NCAA Division 1 roster spot with the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Another 210 players from the last two years of the USPHL Premier have moved on to the ACHA ranks, giving the USPHL Premier a total of 450 college advancements in just two seasons.

The NCAA Division 3 season had not yet begun as of Halloween, but watch for USPHL alumni to be among the top players in each conference. Last year, the Northeast-10 saw 10 league alumni earning post-season awards, with 10 more alumni earning post-season honors in the United Collegiate Hockey Conference. The USPHL Premier Division has also been an entry point to higher levels of hockey, most notably the NCDC. No less than 40 individual players have made the big jump the last two years to the tuition-free junior level within the USPHL. Many of these players rank among the top point leaders in the NCDC, including recent Yale University commit Ian Carpentier and Northern Cyclones standout Niklas Bretschneider. Nicolas Poirier, who made the jump from the Premier to NCDC Twin City Thunder, said it takes a lot just to advance from one level to the other.

It currently serves as a truly developmental league, with a median age of roughly 17-½ years old among its players on teams over a footprint ranging from New England and the Mid-Atlantic to the Southeastern U.S. The vast majority of USPHL Elite players move on to the USPHL Premier, with a total of 251 players in the last two seasons advancing to the higher-level Tier-3 league. Along with its junior development mission, there are several players who advance directly to college hockey. The Northern Cyclones’ Matt Irwin, who finished among the top scorers in the USPHL Elite last season, has earned a spot on the Framingham State University roster in NCAA Division 3 hockey.

“It was a good start last year with the Premier team. A lot of the guys moved up. We did a good job working hard this summer to make sure we got a spot,” added Poirier. “Guys are faster, but you just get adjusted to the speed. Work hard every day and good things will happen.”

A total of 179 former USPHL Elite players (along with players from precursors to the USPHL Elite) are on ACHA rosters for this season, adding to the more than 1,200 total USPHL alumni currently playing college hockey.


The USPHL 18U, 16U and 15U Full Season Divisions have developed a great reputation for not only hosting

The USPHL Elite Division, also operating


at the Tier-3 junior level, has operated at various stages of the USPHL’s existence as its second-and third-highest level of junior hockey.

Thin The Herd // 2020-21


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AN ‘A’ FOR ADVANCEMENT CONTINUED highly-ranked Tier-1 AAA teams, but also advancing players to all corners of the junior, college and pro hockey world. The Midget Divisions feature two alumni who have moved on to the NHL, including Marino and former USPHL 16U standout Joel Farabee, who made his NHL debut this season with the Philadelphia Flyers. In college hockey terms, the USPHL 18U division has seen 77 alumni advance to the NCAA Division 1 game, with 169 more playing Division 3 hockey. The USPHL16U has sent more than 150 into the NCAA realm, with 69 of those hitting the Division 1 ice. The USPHL 18U Division can take credit for shepherding the careers of 85 athletes to the NCDC this season, including Josh Waters, currently a top scorer for the first place Jersey Hitmen. Waters played 16 USPHL games last season for the Northwood School, which went to the USA Hockey Tier 1 Nationals. “Playing at Northwood, there are 18-, 17-and 16-year-olds, and now in this league, you can go all the way to 21, so the kids are bigger, faster and stronger,” said Waters. “Last year was a good year, the most fun I’ve had playing hockey, and I’ve found a good place here. The Hitmen demand a lot out of us, but we’ve been getting results, so they know what they’re doing.” The USPHL 18U Division also sends players to the USPHL Premier, with more than 120 currently skating in that league. North of 200 alumni from the USPHL 16U are also playing in the NCDC, Premier and Elite Divisions, showing that more than 400 players have risen through the USPHL ranks from Midget to Junior.


The pipeline extends all the way down to the USPHL 15U Division. No less than 90 former 15U players are now in the USPHL 16U Division, with another 36 in the 18U Division and over 90 15U alumni have reached the USPHL Junior divisions. Additionally, the USPHL 18U and 16U Divisions currently have 60 alumni playing Tier-1 junior hockey in the U.S. and Canada, as well as more than a dozen former players that moved on to Canadian major junior hockey.

EHF SELECTS The first season of the USPHL’s SplitSeason Midget Division, the EHF Selects, was a rousing success. The vast majority of the 19 players with USPHL organizational roots that were selected in the 2019 NHL Draft came from EHF Selects Member Organizations, including three first-rounders. Several players from Year 1 have also matriculated to Tier-1 hockey in the U.S. and Canada, as well as a pair of goaltenders moving directly from the EHF Selects to the NCDC. Many of last year’s difference-makers are actually back for another season with their favorite EHF Selects organization, in many cases moving up from U16 to U18 internally. With No. 1 overall rankings already this season for both the Boston Jr. Eagles and Little Bruins, college and pro scouts continue to flock to see the best from this league from August until November, as well as at USA Hockey Nationals in April. Advancement to high-level college and junior hockey will only continue to heat up for the EHF Selects as we move into Year 3 in 2020-21.

Thin The Herd // 2020-21

Vinny Castelletti // ’02 Goalie 2021-22 NCDC Tier 2 Advancement

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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.


Thin The Herd // 2020-21

“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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DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION HELP WALSER BECOME AN AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY TRAILBLAZER BY DAYNA LANDGREBE There is nothing more thrilling than variety in the world of sports. Diversity of game, talent, skill, and, most importantly, of player. It’s the uniqueness of a player’s ability, perspective, grit, background and determination that can turn even the most expected outcomes on a dime. One good hit. One incredible save. One legendary act that can make or break the win. It is true in sports, and it’s true elsewhere— our differences don’t divide us; they are the only thing that unite us. The playing field might look different, but diversity and inclusion are an essential way to a win at Walser Automotive Group, too. It’s been a focus for the Edina-based dealer group for years, and Chief Human Resources Officer Sherry Schultz said the reasons are many. “First and foremost, it’s the right thing to do. Asking our employees to bring their whole selves to work matches our Core Values. Life doesn’t stop when you enter our four walls no matter who you are. We know people who are authentic at work are considerably happier, more satisfied, and less stressed. It’s a winwin,” Schultz said. Schultz, who joined Walser in 2018, started an inclusive transformation for the company with the launch of Women of Walser—an Employee Resource Group (ERG) focused on the recruitment, retention, and ascension of women at Walser and into the automotive industry. Today, Women of Walser focuses on areas of business development, career progression, personal growth and community outreach initiatives.


There is also a business case to the notion of being yourself. “It is our total intention to represent the customers we serve every day. Our customers come to us from all corners of the state and beyond. We aim to look like the marketplaces we serve to better understand and support the needs of our sales and service clients. It’s critical that our customers feel understood and heard when buying a car, no matter their race, religion, gender or orientation,” Schultz said. It’s a game plan Schultz has studied before. With executive diversity experience from Fortune 500 companies like PepsiCo, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, and Sears Holding Company, Schultz has championed the practice of supportive employee engagement. “It’s about incorporation, not accommodation,” she said. “Diversity in thought and action should be a driver for any community business.” The desire for inclusion quickly grew at Walser and expanded to form both an ERG for Walser’s LGBTQ+ employees, aptly named Drive With Pride, and, most recently, Mosaic, an employee-run digital resource library focused on race equity and education. It’s a calling and a mission for the company that wouldn’t have taken root without the support of Walser CEO Andrew Walser.

Thin The Herd // 2020-21

Walser, an Edina native, took the helm as Walser’s CEO in 2017. He said he’s watched the automotive industry begin to make more incremental changes in areas of employee inclusion over the years but said there’s still much room to grow. “The growth of diversity and inclusion at Walser has never been more important and we’ll continue to dedicate resources to it,” Walser said. Meanwhile, Walser Chairman Paul Walser spotlighted the issue of diversity on the national stage last month during the 2021 National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Show. Walser is serving as the 2021 Chairman for NADA. “This is an important moment for dealers everywhere, because the truth is that we don’t live in the same world we used to,” Walser said during his keynote address. “This year I want to challenge all of us to make this a priority. Let’s find the path to attract a more diverse workforce. Then let’s implement training to help them succeed.” NADA represents nearly 16,500 franchised new car and truck dealerships across the U.S., both domestic and foreign. “Andrew and Paul Walser care deeply about this topic and our employees know it. Our goal has consistently been to grow and support better people, not just salespeople,” Schultz said.

Pictured: CEO of Walser Automotive Group, Andrew Walser, growing up playing hockey for the Edina Youth Hockey Association and High School team.

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Walser Automotive Group Chief Human Resources Officer Sherry Schultz


Thin The Herd // 2020-21


I like the game. I like what the game brings in terms of intangibles more than anything else… the locker room time, the team work time. Seasons can be six months long and parents and kids really spend a lot of time together. The kids really love out of town trips. There’s a lot of great pieces to it.”

“I like the game. I like what the game brings in terms of intangibles more than anything else… the locker room time, the team work time. Seasons can be six months long and parents and kids really spend a lot of time together. The kids really love out of town trips. There’s a lot of great pieces to it.”

Looking back, Walser said some of his closest friends today were made on the ice.

Looking back, Walser said some of his closest friends today were made on the ice.

“It’s really more about what the game of hockey does for a young boy or girl in terms of growing up and just being with a tight knit group. They grow up and they get on different teams and every year they get to meet new kids. It’s like social networking, positive sports teamwork building.”

“It’s really more about what the game of hockey does for a young boy or girl in terms of growing up and just being with a tight knit group. They grow up and they get on different teams and every year they get to meet new kids. It’s like social networking, positive sports teamwork building.”

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Jon Albert #51 Jon Grew up in Maplewood, Minnesota and currently lives with his wife Clara and Daughter Bella in Lino Lakes, Minnesota. Jon currently works for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs as a Senior Veterans Claims Representative. Jon served in the Minnesota Army National Guard for 8 years (from October 2002 to October 2010). He attended basic training and AIT at Fort Benning Georgia, where he learned his MOS (military occupational specialty) of Infantryman 11 Bravo. In October of 2005 he was activated and attended a train up for 6 months at Camp Shelby Mississippi. In April of 2006 he then deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for a total of 16 months in Iraq. While serving in Fallujah, Iraq he received a Combat Infantry Badge and Purple Heart for wounds received in action on September 27, 2006 when his Bradley fighting vehicle hit an IED (improvised explosive device). Jon and his father Steve Albert have both served honorably in the United States Army and have both received Combat Infantry Badges and Purple Hearts. He grew up playing hockey from the time he was a mite through peewees. He then did not play organized hockey until August of 2015 when he joined the Warriors. He joined the Minnesota Warriors Ice Hockey Team in August of 2015, and currently serves on the Board of Directors as their Volunteer Coordinator and as an Alternate Captain for the Minnesota Warriors Black team.

Krist Francisco #71 Active duty Army Jon Albert #51

Corey Deckard #35


Thin The Herd // 2020-21

101st airborne ( air assault div) 1BCT, 426th brigade support battalion, Alpha company, trans platoon convoy truck gunner. Deployment date: 3MAY2010 to Fob Fenty, Jalalabad Afghanistan. Kunar Province. Blown up by 500lb trigger switch i.e.d. 8JUNE2010 route Stetson on route back from long range convoy. Explosive detonated under my area in the truck, lifted us 10ish ft flipped and rolled down the cliff side to the Kunar river. Throwing me to the back of the truck, crushed under everything inside. Almost completely bled out from a broken femur. 26+ surgeries and 2 1/2 years of rehab, a Purple Heart and retirement later, moved home and started playing hockey. Rest is history.

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Corey Deckard, Mark Jendro, Eric Reetz, Jon Albert Nick Leach, Krist Francisco - Blue Ox Bootcamp 2020-21


Thin The Herd // 2020-21

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Mark Jendro #76

Corey Deckard #35

Eric Reetz #1

Mark Jendro, retired from active duty in July 2016 after serving 21 years in the U.S. Air Force. Mark was assigned as a Special Agent to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and assigned to bases in North Dakota, Okinawa, Japan, Republic of Korea, Colorado, Alaska, and Hawaii. Mark was deployed in support of military operations to Turkey (Operation Provide Comfort), Saudi Arabia twice (Operation Southern Watch/Operation Enduring Freedom), Kuwait and Iraq (Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom). He has been with the MN Warriors since Fall 2016, and currently serves as the Assistant Captain for the MN Warriors Black team.

What branch did you serve in, what was your job?

Eric Reetz retired from the MN National Guard in 2019 after serving 20 years. Eric spent most of his career as an Infantryman. In 2006 he deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraq Freedom. Upon his return, he began teaching at Camp Ripley. Eric has been with the Warriors since 2018. He currently serves as an Assistant Captain for the black team.

Nick Leach #65 Playing for the Minnesota Warriors Green Team as a defenseman and assistant captain. I spent 8 years as a Field Service Specialist with the Army Reserves. I joined the reserves as a junior in high school. 1 deployment to Iraq from 2003-04. This is my 4th season with the Minnesota Warriors and plays primarily on the Green Team in the C2 bracket of the Minneapolis AHA league. He started skating when he received his first pair of skates at the age of 2 and started playing hockey when he was 5. What it has meant to be a part of the Minnesota Warriors, “Playing for the Warriors has been an amazing experience! An amazing group of guys that are great to play with and a lot of fun to hang out with outside the rink. I have a great support system. The comradery amongst the guys not only from MN but from the guys I have met from across the country at the different events has been unbelievable.

I was in Active Duty Army. My MOS was 12N Horizontal Engineer. I built up FOBs and airstrips in Afghanistan 2010 and I tore down the FOBs and airstrips there in 2013. I did route clearance both times. How long did you serve? 9 years How long have you been playing hockey? I started playing hockey when I was 4 years old and played through high school and for a couple years after high school. I was a goalie the whole time. How long have you been with the Minnesota Warriors? I’ve been with the warriors since April 2018 What team are you on? I play for the green team What position do you play? Goaltender What does it mean to play for the Warriors? It helps vets like me deal with the separation of being part of a team. You become a civilian and you start feeling alone and not part of anything important and this organization has made me feel like I’m part of a team again. You get to be around other former military members that kind of know what you’ve been through and can help you. It got me out of my house and doing something active again.

BOOT CAMP EVENTS: The weekend began with a late Friday afternoon camp set up and planning phase, ending with a little bit of latenight land navigation course setup by starlight. Games were already afoot as the Cadre began finalizing their shenanigans. Saturday started with smiles and chuckles with the realization of an impending good old fashioned rainy miserable military training experience was at hand. Just the right type of experience to build a bit of grit and resolve into a group of young men. The players pulled in to the long driveway, with only a few having an inkling of the events to come. The veterans who experienced the last season’s “short” version of the bootcamp, may have shared some of their ideas, but quickly found they were in for a different experience this year. The boys were told to ground their gear, in their lodging area and report to the assembly area for their formal formation and in brief. Squads and squad leaders were assigned and team Captain Nick Muller was issued Babe, a stuffed blue ox, for safekeeping. Squads were provided a limited overview of the weekend, and LET THE GAMES begin!

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First up was an exercise in attention to detail. Players were provided a list of required items. They were required to lay out the specific items, clothing, toiletries and hockey sticks, in a specific arrangement while being “encouraged” to act with a sense of urgency by the Warrior’s Cadre. Surprisingly the players almost all of the items. A surprising and central deficiency was quickly observed and a resolution needed to be found. The common item found to be missing from a group of players was the hockey stick! After paying the cadre in push ups the players were offered the opportunity to gather branches from a dead tree to replace their hockey sticks. The First lesson was learned and reinforced.


In hockey like military operations there are required pieces of equipment and a certain level of preparation and planning is required to ensure everyone has the required equipment to accomplish the assigned mission. After the gear inspection the next obstacle to overcome was the bed down plan. For a group of young men entering into a situation they were unsure about, they at least headed the request to bring some type of shelter. Their plan was a bit on the short side though. Luckily the players were able to “purchase” a tent or two from the cadre for some push-ups and flutter kicks. Once the tents were set up and

Thin The Herd // 2020-21

their gear was secured from the light rain it was time to begin the first official event of the day, The Murph! The players were formed up into their platoons and briefed on the upcoming event, its origin and why it was important not only to the players, but to honor the memory of one of our country’s most respected and honorable soldiers. “The Murph” gets its name from Navy SEAL Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was killed during Operation Red Wing on June 28th, 2005. Lt Murphy and his team were engaged in a firefight and heavily outnumbered by Taliban fighters when he exposed himself to enemy fire to call in reinforcements. For his selfless

actions in battle he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. His heroic actions are depicted in the major motion picture “Lone Survivor.” Lt Murphy was an avid Crossfit participant and appropriately that community has embraced and his Workout of the Day has become a staple in the community. The workout consists of a 1 Mile Run, 100 Pull ups, 200 Pushups, 300 Squats, and finishes with a 1 Mile Run. Because of the area the boot camp was held, a pull up bar was unavailable; thus, the pullups were not conducted as part of the workout. This years boot camp saw the players come together more that the previous as they took turns counting and ensured

everyone was able to complete the challenge as a team. Some recovery time was well earned after completing the Murph! It also provided opportunities to conduct some Cadre games. The players were required to have their sticks on them at all times and to always travel in pairs. Exhaustion has a way of impacting focus, which was ripe for the picking. Players were “smoked” for losing their sticks, walking off alone, and a variety of other infractions. Those who failed to plan and bring hydration and nutrition refueling were offered opportunities to “pay” for their oversight. Unfortunately, pushups, flutter kicks and runs were the

only currency accepted at the camp. After a break to recover the players were able to practice their low crawling abilities and tire flipping skills in a relay race. Although not as taxing as the Murph, it was an opportunity to experience some intense at time performance feedback. The players displayed their drive to compete and endurance throughout the entire event. Next up were two events focusing on attention to instructions and attention to detail. For the instructions portion, an exercise in room breaching and clearing was set up. Like a group of young boys playing “guns” in the backyard, the players approached the required

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tasks with eagerness, imagination and excitement. With a little coaching and humor, the Cadre was able to get the casualty count down to acceptable levels. The attention to detail challenge found the players walking a path with hidden items along the path. Their answers were compared and bragging rights were assigned. The night ended with some good Burgers on the grill and preparation for the nights final event, the campfire. In what ended up being one of the most important events of the boot camp the players were given the task of keeping the fire going for the entire night. Each platoon had a fire of which they were responsible for. After dinner it was time for some good old story time. There were many stories told that night. Many that will invoke smiles and memories at the mere mention of the campfire. This one central activity was felt to be the one that brought the group closer than any other. Even the host for the bootcamp was able to spend some time at the fire sharing stories. Boy, he had some good ones! The fires stayed lit the entire night and luckily the drizzly rain stayed away; as some of the players actually stayed up the whole night or slept fireside. On Sunday morning the boys were woken up and fell into formation for the start of day two. The workout portion consisted of the US Army 101st Airborne Division’s Smoke.


Thin The Herd // 2020-21

This event consisted of Pushups, Sit ups and flutter kicks to cadence. Franky’s heart fluttered a bit, as he felt at home. After the workout it was time to get some chow. Luckily Lana Jendro arrived with some breakfast burritos, fresh fruit and OJ! What a breakfast, some of the guys were left trying to talk Lana into supply of burritos coming during the season. After the workout and breakfast, it was time for a fireside chat from the Cadre. For the fireside chat Each of the Minnesota Warrior’s took the opportunity to talk about their backgrounds in hockey and the military. More importantly they each took the opportunity to discuss how being part of a team and the intense shared experiences have affected their lives. The Warriors explained how the game of hockey has provided the opportunity to recapture the spirit and comraderie that is central to their military experiences. The players took turns asking questions to learn more about the cadre and how they could apply some of their experiences to their efforts to grow as teammates and young men. The boot camp ended with an ending formation and a short run to the finish through a billowing cloud of blue and white smoke to celebrate the conclusion of the boot camp. Another successful season kickoff, with the seeds of a TEAM, planted and watered. LET’S PLAY HOCKEY!


CHASKA | 952-368-3389 PLYMOUTH | 763-557-5195

BLOOMINGTON | 952-888-1600

CHANHASSEN | 952-474-8284

• MAPLE GROVE | 763-416-3872

ST. LOUIS PARK | 763-417-0550

RICHFIELD | 612-869-9295

LAKEVILLE | 952-435-2198

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& His #1 Fan Evan Vernetti Colton Zach AveryEarl // ’00 Forward

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51 51

Peter Keese // ’03 Defenseman 2021-22 NCDC Tier 2 Advancement


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Your Coach In Real Estate.

JASON WOOD, REALTOR ARROW REAL ESTATE (612) 791-4663 jasonwoodrealtor@comcast.net Assistant Coach Minnesota Blue Ox Junior A’ Hockey Club United States Premier Hockey League


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HOCKEY CHANGES LIVES. - Larry Hendrickson | Founder Hendrickson Foundation

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The Minnesota Blue Ox is proud to have partnered with the Minnesota Warriors and The Hendrickson Foundation this season to help hockey change the lives of our fellow soliders and disabled Veterans. #thintheherd #weLOVEourveterans TO SUPPORT THE MINNESOTA WARRIORS VISIT | MNWARRIORS.COM TO SUPPORT THE HENDRICKSON FOUNDATION VISIT | HENDRICKSONFOUNDATION.COM

Colton Avery // ’00 Forward

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Thin Thin The The Herd Herd // // 2020-21 2018-19


TRAINING STUDIO OF THE MINNESOTA BLUE OX visit poweredgetraining.com 60

Thin The Herd // 2020-21

The BLUE Ox Swept the Steele County Blades & Wisconsin RAPIDS RiverkingS in divisional playoffs to advance to their 2nd national tournament in their first 4 years as an organization. The Ox finished 1-1-1 in pool play in Hampton Roads, Virginia March 18-22, 2021. A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication


Captains / Jayce Hopia / Alec Skradski / Colton Avery / Zach Earl 62

Thin The Herd // 2020-21

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A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication


A Minnesota Blue Ox Publication


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