New hockey team starts in Whitefish


New hockey team starts in Whitefish

KALISPELL, Mont. - Whitefish's junior hockey team, the Glacier Nationals, is relocating to Havre. For the last three years, the Glacier Nationals Hockey team has called the Stumptown Ice Den its home. They're a junior hockey team playing teams from all over from Seattle to Salt Lake City.

In a few months, it won't be the Nationals who are taking the ice as the home team.

"I'm excited about moving forward," said Josh Steel.

Steel was working with the Glacier Nationals before he decided to head up the Whitefish Wolverines, who will now be the home team at the Whitefish Ice Den.

"It's great to have a program -- a junior program -- in a building like this.  It keeps your local talent home and it keeps kids in the game," Steel said.

The Nationals' contract to play at the arena expired at the end of this season, and the Stumptown Ice Rink's advisory board heard proposals from multiple teams that want to play at the Ice Den.

Facilities manager Andy Hergesheimer says the Wolverines offered to pay the rink for more time out on the ice, bringing in more revenue for the arena.

"The junior team is an economic driver for our community.  The out-of-town teams stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants; local businesses sponsor these teams," Hergesheimer said.

The Wolverines will play in the Western States Hockey League in a full 48-game season coming up in just a few months for the 2014-2015 season. 

Steel tells NBC Montana he fully expects to pack the entire arena for the inaugural season of the Whitefish Wolverines.

"The group of kids that are interested and coming back and playing in the community is a strong group of players," said Steel.

The team may be new, but Steel has high hopes for the Wolverines.

Players from the Glacier Nationals have the choice of heading to Havre or staying in the Flathead and playing for the Wolverines.

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