2011-2012 marks the 19th consecutive year of junior hockey for the Billings Bulls Hockey Club. The Bulls have moved 100s of players to high levels of hockey over the past 18 years and second year head coach, Chris Hartly's focus and commitment to his players is to continue the excellence of player development to keep moving players forward in their careers. 2011-2012 will also see the Bulls return to Metra Park for 4 to 6 games, after a tornado on June 20, 2010 heavily damaged the arena and closed the facility for 10 months while it was repaired and remodeled. It is at Metra Park that the Bulls set the Junior A, Tier III attendance record of 2,887 fans in 2008. Plans for a break the attendance record night is one of the great promotions on this year's schedule of Metra Park games.
With the 2011 -2012 hockey season approaching, the Bozeman Icedogs look forward to its 16th year of hockey in Bozeman. Over the years the Icedogs have made a rich tradition of moving players to the next level. Bill Zaniboni is moving into his second year as Head Coach and last year was no exception, with finishing a few points out of playoffs there were 8 players who moved on to Div III NCAA or tier II hockey. The Icedogs look to continue their player development and helping young players reach their goals.
2011-2012 marks the inaugural season of junior hockey in Gillette, Wyoming for the Gillette Wild. With a newly built 2500 capacity ice arena in Sprit Hall, the community of Gillette is extremely excited for the Wild to take the ice! The Wild fill a void missing in the American West Hockey League with a team once again playing out of the state of Wyoming. In the past few season’s Gillette has hosted the University of Wyoming vs. the University Montana club hockey, along with several junior exhibition games which averaged 1500-2000 fans per game! With a top notch support staff in place, along with the tremendous response and support of the Gillette community, the wild look forward to starting a rich tradition of player development, community relations, and their quest for the cup!
Great Falls Americans
2011-2012 marks the inaugural season for Tier III hockey action in Great Falls, MT. It has been eight years since the Americans fielded a Jr. A team and the hiatus has left the town and fans hungry for their team to return to the ice. Great Falls has a very rich hockey tradition and the "new" Americans look to build on that existing legacy. The recently built Ice Plex, home of the Americans, will hold 1,800 screaming fans rooting on their hometown squad. The coaching staff of Matthew Frank and Terry Metro is looking forward to bringing their track record of winning and successfully developing players and moving them to higher levels of hockey to the Americans organization. The quality coaching staff coupled with the amazing community support from the "Electric" city will make for an outstanding first year of competition in the America West Hockey League for the Great Falls Americans.
The Helena Bighorns rejoin the AWHL as the reigning USA Hockey Tier III Junior A National Champions. They have also captured the NORPAC League Championship 6 of the last 7 years, including the last 4 straight. In their 10 years in Helena, the Bighorns have moved over 150 players to the NCAA College level and several more to the higher levels of junior and pro hockey.
Head Coach, Scott Cunningham, returns for his 9th season. He was selected as the NORPAC Coach of the Year 7 straight seasons up until last season. Helena players have received more league awards and all star selections than all other junior teams west of Minnesota. Helena ranks as one of the top draws in all of junior A hockey, setting new highs for attendance in 8 of their 10 seasons.
The Missoula Maulers are coming off their best year in history. The Maulers finished the 2010-2011 year in second place right behind the Tier III National Champion Helena Bighorns. Over the past 2 years, the Maulers have moved up 7 players into the NAHL and USHL and many on to D3 college teams. Marcus Baxter was voted the 2011 NORPAC coach of the year while the Maulers organization was voted the NORPAC franchise of the year. Missoula has also led the attendance in NORPAC for all 4 of its years at an average of about 1000 per game.