A prime facility in place, nestled in the heart of the state of hockey, led to an opportunity simply too good to pass up.
The Minnesota Moose will drop the puck in their inaugural season this fall, making a new home at Fogerty Ice Arena in Blaine.
“This area is surrounded by a lot of college teams and high level junior teams,” said Jon Jonasson, the new team’s coach and general manager. “It’s a good place for advancement and development.
“To be honest, it was kind of a perfect fit … perfect time, perfect place.”
The Moose players will range from ages 16 to 20 and come from across the world, with skaters from France, Sweden and the Czech Republic on the inaugural roster.
The commitment level is intense. Everyone on the team, and in the league, is vying for spots either higher up the junior ranks or on college rosters.
“All of these guys come here for the opportunity to try and advance,” Jonasson said. “These are pretty high level players for the most part. It’s a very well-respected league and it helps attract players like that.”
The season runs from September to March, with players at the rink each morning at 8 a.m. for practices, lifting weights and film sessions, then off to take part in volunteer work, part-time jobs and online school work.
During the season, players stay with host families in the community, with the team still seeking more.
“We’re looking for good host families, people that are willing to open their doors,” Jonasson said. “Each family typically provides food for the players and a room to sleep in. It’s often times a family with kids in athletics that understand the lifestyle.”
Players provide a $350 monthly stipend to help defray costs.
The Moose will compete in the United State Premier Hockey League’s Midwest (West) Division, with nine teams located in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as in midseason showcase tournaments.
For his part, Jonasson has been tasked with balancing being competitive on the ice with helping develop players for higher levels of hockey.
“It kind of goes hand in hand,” he said. “As you’re developing and working on concepts with each player, you’re opening up new things. As they get better throughout the season we can push them more.
“The goal is to treat each player individually, working with them with what they need to improve on to achieve where they need to be in order to advance.”
The team has been assembled through a summer frenzy of recruiting, scouring through showcases, camps and video to try to identify talented players who also possess high character.
Although it’s the team’s first season, the bar has been set high.
“With the ownership staff we have, we’ve been able to bring in a very strong team,” Jonasson said. “I think there’s an opportunity for this team to win. For us, it’s win the first game. Then sweep a weekend, win the division and win the league. That’s a goal we’ll all have.”
The Moose open the season against the Minnesota Mullets on Friday, Sept. 15 at Fogerty Ice Arena.