The Wausau RiverWolves attract hockey players from all over North America.
This year, recruiting those players was more difficult than ever, but they managed to find a few good skaters right in their own backyard.
"It feels actually really good to be back out here from such a long time now from last season and with the setback from COVID," said RiverWolf player and Mosinee grad Max Beste.
The Wausau RiverWolves returned to the ice this week for their first practices of the year as several local skaters adjust to the next level.
"It's a lot faster, it's a lot more competitive," Beste said. "Guys are stronger and guys are faster."
"I think I'm going to be helpful on the team, working hard and getting dirty in the corners and stuff," added Antigo graduate Isaac Wickersheim.
Graduates of Antigo, Northland Pines and Mosinee now call this tier-three hockey team their own, just as other Northwoods natives have over the years.
"The level of play in this area, I mean, its a hockey hotbed," said head coach Colin Bailey. "There's some really good players in this area and for me to not take advantage of that area would not make sense."
That local talent was especially useful this year, with COVID-19 severely limiting Colin Bailey's ability to meet players.
"It was a lot of video, you know," Bailey said." A lot of watching players' games, a lot of reaching out, phone calls, texts, all that good stuff, Instagram messages. Any way to get a hold of a player."
Even though the Wolves are back to normal with their training, they know this season will be unlike any other in their history.
"It's going to be a new process this season," Bailey said. "It's going to be something we'll figure out through trial and error."
The RiverWolves play their first game on Friday, Oct. 2 in Janesville, Wisconsin.
Their home opener is on Friday, Oct. 9 in Marathon Park. Fans are allowed to attend, although the venue will be filled to just one-third capacity.
Masks are required in the building.
|Story By: Andrew Goldstein