Call of the WildernessStarting in September, there will be a new hockey team playing at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
Starting in September, there will be a new hockey team playing at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.
The two-time defending Superior International Junior Hockey League champion Wisconsin Wilderness are moving to Cloquet this winter, bringing a gaudy record and some pretty good Junior A Tier II players with them.
“Cloquet has a long history of being a great hockey town,” Coach Rod Aldoff said. “We have wanted to have a team in Cloquet for some time now and we’re now able to do it. Cloquet was a no-brainer for us.”
The team, which will be renamed the Minnesota Wilderness, went 49-6-1 in its 56-game schedule last season, including a perfect 28-0-0 at its home in Spooner. The league also features teams in Duluth, Thunder Bay and Hoyt Lakes.
However, the owners of the Spooner arena plan to sell their building this year, which would have left the team without a place to play. That forced ownership to look at moving.
“We really couldn’t wait,” he said. “We had to find a home for the team. We’re anxious to get the season going and we try to recruit the best players we can find from all over the country.”
Aldoff, a former UMD defenseman from 1991-95, takes understandable pride in what he’s helped to build. He noted that all of his team’s 20-year-old players from last season are moving on to play college hockey this winter.
“We do recruit good players,” he said. “We hope the people of Cloquet come out and see some good hockey.”
The team will play 27 regular season home games this winter, which will mean a financial windfall for the Cloquet Area Hockey Association.
Full terms of the association’s contract with the team weren’t disclosed, but association president Mike Acheson said it’s all good news.
“We rent more ice, and for the community it’s a great level of competition,” Acheson said. “We agreed on prices for our facilities for in-season when our youth program is going on, and we’re getting fair market value for game day ice and locker room rental. We are also getting income during the day when the team practices, which is great because that’s a time when the building is usually empty.”
The team has a mini-camp scheduled for Aug. 10-12 in Spooner, but will shift to Cloquet for the start of training camp in September.
“Their season starts a month before the youth,” Acheson said. “They need ice in September and they’ll pick up the electric bill for the ice plant at that time. We also got assurances that our youth programs won’t be displaced during the season. We have to look after our kids too.”
Aldoff said the team is looking for people willing to be host families for players. Those interested should call the arena and leave a message on the team’s phone line, which will be set up by the end of the week.