17 Teams in 17 Days: Alexandria Blizzard
The ‘17 in 17’ series features an in-depth look into all 17 NA3HL teams, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season on Saturday, September 8th.
‘17 in 17’ will go in-depth into each 3HL team and will include interview with all 17 3HL head coaches as they prognosticate and break down their outlook for the upcoming season.
Head Coach: Jeff Crouse
Assistant Coach: Ian Resch
2011-12 Record: N/A
2012-13 Division: West
Opening Night: Saturday, October 13th vs. Granite City – 7:00 pm at Runestone CC
(First game - September 15th at Quad City)
From the NAHL footprint, to the NA3HL footprint, the Alexandria Blizzard of the West Division will kick-off their inaugural season with a preexisting passion from its community.
In mid-April, owners Chris and Mitri Canavati decided to move the NAHL club in Alexandria, Minnesota to Brookings, South Dakota. The decision was bitter sweet, but hockey was not going to leave town. The resolution was simple; fill the space with a NA3HL team. The decision fit perfectly with the addition of another new team in the West, the Breezy Point North Stars. The inclusion of the two new teams to the league will make for an interesting and competitive season for the West Division. With the community of Alexandria still breathing Blizzard spirit, it will be hard for anyone to notice a change.
Former NAHL assistant coach for the Blizzard, Jeff Crouse, will now be taking the role as head coach for the NA3HL team. Crouse, who has coached in the NAHL for 10 years, believes that Alexandria will be just as impressed with what is to come this year. With an average attendance of 866 a game last year in the NAHL, the community has the potential to be a league-leader in the NA3HL. Last year, the North Iowa Bulls were first in attendance with an average of 469 fans a game. With the distance of the West Division teams being so close in range, chances for fans traveling to away games is highly likely and will create an intriguing atmosphere for all in attendance.
As the NAHL and NA3HL’s partnerships continue to grow, we will start seeing more player transactions between the leagues. Crouse anticipates a great relationship with Brookings this year and hopes to move as many players on to the next level as he can. “Our goal as an organization is to do well and win, but the main goal is player development,” he expressed. “We want to keep the expectation alive for the fans… the only thing that is changing are the names on the jerseys. New year, new players, but same product.”
Crouse has spent a lot of the off-season helping the Blizzard of the NAHL make the move to Brookings. During this time, he had the chance to scout a lot of talent that will comprise the new Alexandria Blizzard roster. However, he cannot develop this roster by himself and assistant coach Ian Resch will back Crouse behind the bench. Resch, a huge part of the Alexandria hockey community, will bring his experiences to the Blizzard from playing at Bemidji State and coaching at the Bantam A and at the high school levels. The coaches had a late start in putting together the roster, but were able to tender a total of eight players in just a month. The team also credits Bryant Black for beating the streets and continuing to market the team to get the program to where it needs to be. Black’s passion is what will keep the junior hockey market alive in Alexandria.
As noted before, the Alexandria Blizzard’s main focus will be player development. The club has taken it upon themselves this upcoming season to continue to reach the hockey community in Alexandria. Local high school players will have the chance to play with the team before and after the high school season. The Blizzard want to give kids the opportunity to play and develop at a higher level, and to further the hockey careers of those from the local high school and youth organizations.
Crouse and his new team will host the 2012 NA3HL Silver Cup Champions, the Granite City Lumberjacks, on October 13th at Runestone Community Center for their inaugural home season game of the year.