Thief River Falls, MN | For many, competitive hockey ends at high school or elite midget. But for several Thief River Falls residents, the Norskies; a new junior hockey club in town, gave them the chance to keep playing the sport that they love, close to home.
“When we heard that an expansion junior hockey team was coming to Thief we thought that it would be fun to continue playing with each other and give us an opportunity to play in front of our family and friends that have watched us for so many years playing for the youth teams and the Prowlers,” said forward Michael Johnson.
“It’s a lot of fun to go to the rink. I guess it’s like recess at middle school, hanging out with all your buddies.”
Johnson is one of 3 Thief River Falls natives on the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL) roster, including Blair Lindholm and Keaton Huot who was acquired in a trade from the Minnesota Iron Rangers.
Norskies strength and conditioning coach and Prowlers high school coach Tim Bergland; mentored them all when they played for the Prowlers high school program.
In the last 7 years the Prowlers finished third at state (2011, 2012, 2016).
“I think the most important thing is giving kids a chance to play past high school. It’s huge to have a local opportunity for them to play competitive hockey … and to be able to stay home and still work, go to school, do whatever they want to do. A lot of them want to keep playing and a lot of them are really good hockey players,” Bergland said.
Lindholm decided to sign on with the Norskies so that he could go to school and get some core classes taken care of and play in front of friends and family.
“Education is important and I get to play hockey and live at home; I think this is going to be a great experience and the fan support in Thief River Falls is really great,” said Lindholm. “When I first heard that a junior hockey team was coming to Thief River Falls my first thought was how great that will be for our town.”
Another local boy that was acquired in the off season from the Iron Rangers was Keaton Huot.
“I have played many games at our amazing Ralph Engelstad Arena and with me entering my second year of juniors, I am pretty excited to be back playing at the Ralph with the Norskies,” said an energetic Keaton Huot.
When asked about the community excitement about the new junior hockey team all three agreed; and Lindholm took the lead to say, “The buzz around town is electrifying; people are pumped and they are looking forward to the start of the season. I know that I am really looking forward to making memories with the Norskies and my new teammates.”
The Superior International Junior Hockey League is comprised with teams in Northwestern Ontario, Canada and Minnesota. The Norskies are one of two Minnesota hockey clubs within the SIJHL with the Iron Rangers from Hoyt Lakes being the other.
“There are six clubs in the SIJHL this season the other teams are from Dryden (GM ICE DOGS), Fort Frances (LAKERS), English River (MINERS) and Thunder Bay (NORTH STARS). We expect to be competing for the league title right out of the gates, “remarked head coach Cole Workman. “The aspect of having local guys on the roster is huge for a community based hockey club, we also expect to be involved in the community in read with a Norskie and other events as the year progresses.”
The team will report starting September 6, 2016 for training camp, there will be 30 plus players to start and then a final selection will come from that.
“We are still looking for billet families to take in a player or two, if anyone in the community can help out please contact us,” said Workman.
The Thief River Falls will host exhibition games this Saturday (September 10) and Sunday (September 11) against the Ironwood Yoopers of the USPHL. Game time on Saturday will be at 7 pm and Sunday morning at 10 am. Tickets for the Yoopers game will be $5 adults and $3 for seniors and students. All season ticket holders and host families will be FREE.
Our next set of games will be against the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Winkler Flyers on Friday September 16 @ 7:30 pm at the Huck Olson Memorial Civic Auditorium and will return the trip on Saturday September 17 @ 7:30 pm to Winkler’s Recreation Complex. The Norskies are excited to get the season started and would love to see a large following to Winkler for the exhibition game as well as at home.
Tickets for the exhibition game as well as the regular season are on sale now contact the Norskies at (218) 684-0626.