New hockey franchise comes to Coon Rapids

Contributing Writer

A new United States Premier Hockey League franchise, whose majority owner is Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, will make the Coon Rapids Ice Center its home next season.

Coon Rapids city leadership along with the Blue Ox ownership and executive team are pictured at the Coon Rapids Ice Arena. Back row (from left) Matt Stemwedel, Coon Rapids City Manager; Bill Ganser, Coon Rapids Ice Center Manager; Tim Himmer, Coon Rapids Public Works Director; Jay Witta, MN Blue Ox partner, general manager and head coach; Tim Mahoney, MN Blue Ox partner/owner; Bruce Boudreau, MN Blue Ox partner/owner and Minnesota Wild head coach. Front row (from left) Terry Yontz Miller, MN Blue Ox partner/owner; Crystal Boudreau, MN Blue Ox partner/owner. Photo submitted
Coon Rapids city leadership along with the Blue Ox ownership and executive team are pictured at the Coon Rapids Ice Arena. Back row (from left) Matt Stemwedel, Coon Rapids City Manager; Bill Ganser, Coon Rapids Ice Center Manager; Tim Himmer, Coon Rapids Public Works Director; Jay Witta, MN Blue Ox partner, general manager and head coach; Tim Mahoney, MN Blue Ox partner/owner; Bruce Boudreau, MN Blue Ox partner/owner and Minnesota Wild head coach. Front row (from left) Terry Yontz Miller, MN Blue Ox partner/owner; Crystal Boudreau, MN Blue Ox partner/owner.
Photo submitted

The Coon Rapids City Council July 5 approved a contract for the 2017-2018 hockey season with the Minnesota Blue Ox club for use of the ice center.

According to Public Works Director Tim Himmer, the Blue Ox will be contracting for peak ice time for 20 to 25 home games, plus dedicated locker room and non-prime ice time between noon and 2 p.m. each day during “dead ice time” at the arena.

Under the contract, which runs through March 31, 2018, the Blue Ox will pay $195 an hour for prime ice time, $80 an hour for outdoor rink use, $135 an hour for non peak time rental, $100 for ice rental on game day and $10 per hour for locker room use.

The existing main users of the ice center – Anoka-Hennepin School District 11 for Coon Rapids High School games and practices and the Coon Rapids Youth Hockey Association – “are extremely supportive of the proposed partnership,” Himmer told the council.

The Blue Ox contract is modeled after and consistent with those for the school district and the youth hockey association, he said.

Players will be between 16 and 20 years old, Himmer said.

Skills/scrimmages will take place at the ice center July 29 and 30, noon to 2 p.m. It will cost $50 to register.

According to Blue Ox information presented to the council, the Junior A hockey club will be part of the United States Premier Tier III Hockey League, which was founded in 2012.

It will play in the league’s Western Conference, which will feature five Minnesota teams and four from Wisconsin.

Boudreau has 51 percent ownership in the franchise, while Jay Witta, general manager and head coach, has a 24.5 percent ownership share. So does Terri Yontz Miller, a longtime marketing and communications executive with Great Clips.

Other partners and owners are Crystal Boudreau, Bruce Boudreau’s wife, and Twin Cities singer and songwriter Tim Mahoney.

Witta, a Minnetonka native, coached another team in the premier league the past two years which was based in White Bear Lake and has now moved to New Ulm, according to the Blue Ox information.

There is only one other Twin Cities franchise in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Mullets, whose home is at the Forest Lake arena.

The top priority of the club is to “provide a positive environment and opportunity for each player to develop and move on to the next level.”

Council members were enthusiastic about the franchise coming to the ice center. “This is something really fun,” said Mayor Jerry Koch.

According to Council Member Steve Wells, Boudreau was at the ice center July 3 and walked in the Coon Rapids Fourth of July Celebration parade that evening.

The club will be marketing the Coon Rapids Ice Center as the location for its home games, said City Manager Matt Stemwedel.

Details for advertising and marketing are still being worked out and will come back to the council for approval as an amendment to the contract when completed, Himmer said.