SHERIDAN — After spending his early years of hockey in the outdoor rink, Sheridan native Sandis Cook signed with North American Division Three Hockey League affiliate Sheridan Hawks.

Cook will play the inaugural season for the Hawks in a familiar rink. Graduating from Sheridan High School in 2017, Cook grew up playing hockey on the outdoor rink before the Whitney Ice and M&M Center was completed in December 2015.

“There were definitely days when I did not miss playing in negative degree weather in the outdoor rink,” Cook said. “Growing up and playing throughout Wyoming, the other teams all had indoor arenas so it was fun playing indoors. Now that Sheridan has finally got one, they have a really nice arena here.”

Cook played the first year the rink was utilized by Sheridan’s high school team, continuing the tradition of firsts by playing with the first NA3HL team to take the ice.

“It is going to be awesome to get to play in front of my hometown,” Cook said. “It has been two or three years since I have played in front of people I know.”

Cook is no stranger to the NA3HL. He has played three seasons in the league, starting his senior year of high school.

Cook moved to Billings and took online classes while playing for the Billings Bulls. The following year Cook played for Bozeman Ice Dogs and last year played a few home games for the Yellowstone Quake in Cody but did not travel with the team.

All of the teams he played for are in the current Hawks’ region, giving Cook experience with upcoming opponents.

Hawks head coach Andy Scheib said this experience and his overall maturity will make Cook a valuable leader for the team, helping guide the younger players.

Being a leader for the team is something Cook expects of himself, too.

“I hope to be one of the leaders of the team,” Cook said. “Especially being one of the older guys and being my last year, I want to bring that presence to the team.”

The Hawks start the season with exhibition games against Gillette Wild Sept. 6 in Sheridan and Sept. 7 at Gillette. The season will start the following week and the Hawk’s first home game against the Bozeman Ice Dogs will be Sept. 20. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

Players will report to Sheridan Aug. 23 and will have their first practice Aug. 26.

Players coming from out of town will be staying with billet families. These families will play host for the players during the year. Cook stayed with billet families when he played for Billings and Bozeman, enjoying the time he spent with both families.

Scheib said having great host families is a part of building a strong program and he has already seen amazing support from the Sheridan community. Owner of the Sheridan Hawks Brent Milner said in a press release that more billet families are needed for the upcoming season. Email or call 307-752-5405 for more information about hosting.