The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced that its Board of Governors has approved the relocation of the Alexandria Blizzard from Alexandria, Minnesota to Brookings, South Dakota. Once the move to Brookings is complete, the team shall be renamed the Brookings Blizzard and compete in the NAHL’s Central Division during the upcoming 2012-13 season. The NAHL is the oldest and largest junior hockey league in the United States, with 28 teams representing 14 states.
The Brookings Blizzard will play their home games out of the Larson Ice Center, which is a two-rink facility that is owned and operated by the City of Brookings. The facility was newly constructed and finished in the Spring of 2002, which include several renovations, some completed as recently as the Fall of 2009. The Larson Ice Center has a seating capacity of approximately 2,000 in the main rink and 600 in the second rink. The facility is also fully outfitted with large heated viewing areas, upper and lower level lobbies and an upper level concession area as well.
“Chris and Mitri Canavati have been fantastic and committed owners in our league for over seven years in the Alexandria market and the relocation of the Blizzard NAHL franchise to Brookings allows them the best opportunity for success with the NAHL financial model,” said NAHL Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. “The Brookings, South Dakota market fits nicely into our Central Division footprint and is an exciting addition to our league, given our already-strong presence in the Dakota’s and the community’s passion and support for hockey.”
In addition to the NAHL team moving to Brookings, Chris Canavati also announced that he would be keeping a team in Alexandria, Minnesota to play as the Alexandria Blizzard in the North American 3 Hockey League (3HL), an 18-team, USA Hockey Tier III-sanctioned junior league that is run by the NAHL.
“It was a hard decision to move the NAHL team, but it came to the point where we felt it would be better suited in a different market,” Canavati said. “But, just like Brookings may be a better fit for the NAHL team, the Alexandria area better supports a team in the 3HL than it does in the NAHL. The 3HL’s West Division has a more conducive footprint with four other teams in the state of Minnesota and one in Northern Iowa.”
The Brookings Blizzard will retain the services of current Alexandria head coach Doc DelCastillo, who called it the next step for this organization after spending the last three years in Alexandria. “It’s an entertaining brand of hockey. We’ll get up and down the ice and we’ll play physical. This is going to be a tough ticket to get,” said DelCastillo. “Once we start playing, it’s going to be tough to get in here and I would tell [the fans] to get season tickets to make sure they have a seat. We’re providing more young men an opportunity to play at a higher level and that really excites us.”
“We are hopeful that both the Brookings and Alexandria communities will be behind us,” Canavati said. “It’s still going to be good hockey at both levels. The fans in Brookings are going to see a team that has set franchise records for wins each of the last three seasons and we’re going to put on a great show for the fans, who we know will love the NAHL brand of hockey. However, our standards and expectations in Alexandria don’t change just because we’re going to Tier III, and we don’t want the fans to expect a different experience because it still will be a lot of fun and great hockey to watch.”
A presentation to and final approval by the USA Hockey junior council is expected no later than June 9th.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)