Bismarck Bobcats owner Thom Brigl has worked hard not only to make his own team a success, but to spread junior hockey throughout the Dakotas.
Now he’s got the Queen City in his sights.
Brigl has already helped lay the groundwork for the Aberdeen Wings and the Minot Minotauros. Now he’s hoping to bring the NAHL to Dickinson.
To that end, the Bobcats and Minotauros have scheduled an exhibition game for Nov. 13 at the Dickinson Recreation Center. It’s the same modus operandi Brigl used to spur interest in the NAHL in Aberdeen and Minot.
“I think it would be great to have a team in Dickinson, both for the city and the league,” Brigl said.
Brigl believes the oil boom and the resulting influx of residents — and money — to the area would make an NAHL team a successful proposition.
As in Minot, the Dickinson arena would require renovations.
“The rink would need some improvements to be up to NAHL requirements,” Brigl said. “We have talked with some prospective owners about improving the seating, the locker rooms and the concessions.”
Unlike Minot, Dickinson doesn’t have a strong hockey tradition. The Midgets didn’t add hockey until the mid-1990s. Last season both the Dickinson boys and girls teams were winless in West Region play.
“Aberdeen wasn’t a hockey town, either,” Brigl said.
The Wings are currently averaging 1,265 fans per game. Minot is averaging 954.
The hope is that having a junior team would help strengthen the youth teams in Dickinson. Dave Hanneman of Dickinson Hockey, who used to be the Midgets’ head coach, said there was much excitement about the game.
“We couldn’t have found a better event for our kickoff than hosting a game between the two NAHL teams in the Bismarck Bobcats and Minot Minotauros,” Hanneman said in a press release. “Our kids are ecstatic about having their favorite teams, the Bobcats and Tauros, skating on our ice, using the same locker rooms and standing on the same bench as our youth and DHS home games.”
Brigl said he thinks having the Bobcats in town has been good for the local programs here.
“Junior hockey is a business for sure, but you love to see how it helps the young Tyler Richters of the world, the Grant Mindts and Dan Kovars and Aaron Nelsons,” Brigl said. “Ten years ago they were looking up to the Bobcats.”