Over the last two decades, hockey has become an important part of sports in Havre. And now, the hockey community will have even more to cheer about.
On Monday, the Glacier Nationals, a member of the North American Tier 3 Hockey League officially announced the franchise is moving to Havre, beginning in the 2014-15 season. The team will play its home games at the Havre Ice Dome, and signed a three-year contract with the Havre Youth Hockey Association.
In a press release, club general manager Butch Kowalka said there are many positives associated with the move, including the educational opportunities junior players can receive in Havre.
"As we move forward in the improved hockey development and exposure model of the NA3HL, we also need to upgrade our educational diversity," stated Kowalka. "We are looking to attract a much more focused and dedicated student athlete in the NA3HL. A player who is focused on a direct line of exposure to the NAHL and being the best player he can be, but also planning for his future career and making real strides to achieve those goals. That is what we can now offer in Havre with MSU-Northern.”
The Nationals play in the Frontier Division of the NA3HL, which also includes the Great Falls Americans, Billings Bulls, Bozeman Ice Dogs, Helena Bighorns and Yellowstone Quake. The Quake’s home base is Cody, Wyo. And being closer to the rest of those teams was a big part of the Nationals’ move to Havre, as is the Havre Ice Dome, which Kowalka said is a major facility upgrade for the club.
"I am very excited about our move to Havre,” said current Nationals head coach Kyle Bailey. “Returning and incoming players will have a great opportunity to start a winning tradition here. Our goal as an organization is not only about winning hockey games but also to develop our players into better all-round hockey players so they are ready for the next level whether that be in the NAHL, USHL or college. The team’s move to the NA3HL links us directly to the NAHL and will be our main focus in moving our players up. I will be using my experience of both playing and coaching in the NAHL to develop our players into the type of players that the NAHL teams are looking for."
Of course, Havre will also benefit greatly from having a junior hockey club in town. The Nationals will work closely with the Havre Youth Hockey Association and all of its players, coaches and members. Players will also be involved in community service projects around Havre and the Hi-Line, while local hockey fans will now have a professional level of hockey being played through the winter at the Ice Dome.
"Havre youth hockey is very excited to be bringing the Glacier Nationals to the HI-Line community,” said HYHA board member Brett Patrick. “This is a tremendous opportunity to continue the growth of our youth and adult programs, using the junior players and coaches to increase the excitement of our already expanding association. The support and anticipation from Havre and the surrounding areas is already through the roof, as many of us get asked about the Nationals daily.”
The NA3HL season typically begins in October and runs through the March playoffs. The Nationals will be looking for host families in Havre, and anyone wishing to learn more about the club can visit the team’s website at http://glaciernationals.pointstreaksites.com.