SHERIDAN — Junior hockey could be coming to Sheridan. Brent Milner presented to members of the public a proposal to bring a new team to Sheridan, adding to the already busy winter schedule at the Whitney Rink at the M&M’s Center.
The rink and members of the group trying to bring the team to Sheridan have been in talks with the owner of the Glacier Nationals, a team out of Havre, Montana, and have come to a purchase agreement to move the team to Sheridan.
The Glacier Nationals play in the North American Tier III Hockey League. Junior hockey features three tiers, and the NA3HL is the largest league in tier III.
The Nationals play in the Frontier Division of the NA3HL, which features teams from Billings, Montana, Gillette and Cody, among others.
The number one goal of the NA3HL and junior hockey programs like it is to prepare and promote young players and advance them along their careers. The league features players ages 16-20 and adds major recruiting exposure for kids hoping to play in college or in higher-level leagues.
The NA3HL features 48 teams in 21 states and sends players to junior hockey showcases and tournaments across the country.
Sheridan has registered its junior hockey team as a nonprofit. Like many of the junior hockey teams in the region, Milner doesn’t expect Sheridan’s team to be a major earner. Instead, he said, the goal of the team is to create more opportunities for local players and grow the Sheridan hockey program at all levels.
Sandis Cook, who played for the Sheridan Hawks high school team and spent the previous season playing for the NA3HL’s Billings Bulls, spoke on the various opportunities given to junior hockey players and the benefits felt by all. Players form relationships with players and coaches and are required to give back to the community in such ways as helping train and teach younger players.
Along with the internal benefits to Sheridan hockey, Milner noted that bringing in some of the best young talent in the area can easily attract tourism to Sheridan during the slower winter months. Teams of 25 players and coaches would travel to Sheridan — each team plays 22 home games — and fans from the division often travel to watch the teams, as well.
The next step for those behind the effort is to raise $250,000 to bring the team to Sheridan. It will cost $100,000 to purchase the Glacier Nationals, and the group would like an extra $150,000 for things like equipment, a bus, coaches and a back-up account in case something unexpected pops up.
The league runs from September to April, but the scheduling is done in May. If Milner’s group can have the funding completed by the end of the month, the Nationals — which are being rebranded to match the local Hawks program — will jump right into the 2017-18 season.
But Milner expects funding to take a little longer, and the league has approved the team sitting out a year and joining back in the 2018-19 season. Still, the group would like to get the funding going as quickly as possible to complete the purchase agreement with the Nationals.
“He wants to sell the team,” Milner said of the Nationals owner. “He’ll start shopping around.”
The rink will host a fundraising meeting in the next couple of weeks to provide information on the different levels of donations that can be made. From there, the members will vote on a board of directors, and the next steps will include hiring coaches and preparing for the draft.
Milner’s hope is to have a commitment to the league in the next couple months, but he knows it will take a strong fundraising effort to get the ball rolling. Still, he’s confident Sheridan will have a junior hockey team by 2018 and expects it to vastly expand the sport in an already hockey-heavy community.
More information can be found about Sheridan’s junior hockey team by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.