The NAHL has granted membership to the Minnesota Wilderness for the 2013/14 season. The Cloquet, MN based organization will purchase the rights to the dormant St Louis Bandits NAHL membership and transfer it to the Northland. The ownership group consists of Scott Thielen, Chris Trapp and Joe Dusek. In addition to his ownership duties Thielen will also be Director of Hockey Operations. The team will play out of the 2,200 seat Northwood’s Credit Union Arena.
For the past three seasons the Wilderness has been a member of the Canadian Superior International Junior Hockey League. The Wilderness made their presence felt early by winning their first game as a member of the SIJHL then going on to win three straight League Championships. This past season the team also won the Dudley Hewitt Cup awarded to the Central Canadian Junior A Champion and advanced to the Royal Bank Cup where they were 1-3-0 in the round robin portion of the tournament.
When the 2013/14 season begins the Wilderness will have built in rivalries as Cloquet is less than 250 miles from the Austin Bruins and less than 150 miles from the new Minnesota Magicians in Richfield, MN. Austin won the Central Division regular season crown, but were defeated by the Bismarck Bobcats in the Division Finals.
The Wilderness have named Cloquet native and previous NHL player and NAHL head coach Corey Millen as the teams first head coach. Millen was a third round selection of the New York Rangers and spent parts of eight seasons in the NHL with the Rangers, LA Kings, Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames. He played in 331 career games and had 209 points with 90 goals scored. Following his playing career Millen was head coach of the Wasilla Spirit and Alaska Avalanche of the NAHL. “I am very excited to be back coaching in the NAHL,” said Millen. “My experiences in the league have been a lot of fun and ones that are memorable.”
“To be a part of a league with such a long history of outstanding junior hockey is great news for our communities” said Trapp. “It also provides opportunity for our local elite players to continue to pursue their hockey careers close to home.” Millen’s name and knowledge of the area will help the Wilderness tap into the local talent pool. Millen sees it as a positive as well “It is a great opportunity because of the people I know and the knowledge I have of the area.”
Thielen added “Our goal as an organization is to strive to bring great hockey to the community and promote our players to the next level. We firmly believe our move from the SIJHL to the NAHL is an important step in helping us accomplish these goals.”