SHERIDAN — For folks that live and have resided in Sheridan for a while, towering mountains, horseback riding and shooting guns on a ranch are commonplace. For a quintet of midwesterners, those things are all brand new.
Five former Wisconsin Whalers, who are set to join the NA3HL’s Sheridan Hawks this fall, visited Sheridan for the first time over the weekend and received a full western experience in just a couple days.
“We just wanted to see what it’s all about,” Trevor Timm said. “We wanted to see what the rink looked like and the town. We wanted to check everything out. It was great.”
Timm joined Justin Schwartzmiller, Jack Royer, Koltan Wright and Steve Delikat in a week filled with new experiences. The five drove up and did some sightseeing in the Bighorn Mountains, they tried Rocky Mountain oysters, they rode horses, shot some guns and met people from around town and associated with the new NA3HL team based in Sheridan.
And the first impressions are things the players won’t soon forget.
“We saw a lot of people walking around in cowboy boots and cowboy hats, which is something we don’t see every day,” Royer said. “The lay of the land, the mountainous geography you got here, is pretty incredible. You can’t compare it to anything back home.”
Royer calls Madison, Wisconsin, home, and all four of his teammates hail from either Wisconsin or Minnesota. All four played for the Whalers last season and are excited to kick off the Sheridan Hawks era.
The Whalers finished last season at 23-24 (46 points) and were the top team in the Central Division to miss the playoffs. While it wasn’t the ending the team wanted, some elements from last season can benefit the Hawks in 2019-20.
“We kind of came together as a group of guys and turned our season around in the middle of the season with great coaching from Andy Scheib,” Royer said. “We had some big wins. We had a big turnaround. We had the best record in three years, and that was really big.”
The Whalers, based in Madison, were sold in the offseason, leaving players anxious about the next step. When the Hawks were officially introduced as the newest member of the NA3HL, Scheib asked some of his players to come aboard the Sheridan team. Scheib will build his team around the familiar faces with players from all over the country and a few from Sheridan County. Scheib will take advantage of the upstart program and implement a team identity quite dissimilar from the one in Wisconsin.
“I’m going to go completely different (from what the Whalers were),” Scheib said. “We are going to have more players, and it’s just a way better setup, so I’m going to be able to do different things that I wasn’t able to do in Wisconsin. I’m going to try bring back old-school hockey. I want to be physical, I want to be tough and we are going to score some goals.”
The change of scenery has also invigorated the players, as well. “You can tell the people out here, they want this team to be successful,” Schwartzmiller said.
Schwartzmiller and company will move to Sheridan permanently in August and the 2019-20 inaugural season for the Sheridan Hawks will begin in September.