BLAINE, Minn. – The North Iowa Bulls will get quite the welcome when they make their North American Hockey League debut at the NAHL Showcase next month in Blaine, Minnesota.
The Bulls’ schedule at the North American Hockey League Showcase has been announced, with storylines galore for the team’s first week at the Tier II level. The NAHL Showcase is scheduled for September 15 to 18 at the National Sports Center Super Rink, alongside the NAPHL Fall Showcase being held there from September 16 to 19.
North Iowa’s first NAHL game will take them up against the Minnesota Wilderness of the Midwest Division on Wednesday, September 15 at 11 a.m., giving the Bulls and Wilderness the chance to fire the opening salvo for the weekend. The Bulls have a direct North Iowa connection to the Wilderness in head coach and general manager Dave Boitz, who served as the North Iowa Outlaws’ head coach and GM from 2005 to 2008. In the last of those three years, the Outlaws won the NAHL’s Central Division championship and were named the league’s Organization of the Year. Last season, the Wilderness finished 25-27-1-3, finishing third in the Central before moving back to the Midwest Division for this season.
The following day, the Bulls square off with the Jamestown Rebels of the league’s East Division, with a 4:30 p.m. puck drop. The Rebels will return to the league in 2021-22 after COVID restrictions in New York forced them to go dark for the 2020-21 season. The Rebels were in fifth place and in a four-way battle for the East Division’s last playoff spot when the 2019-20 season was halted. No direct ties exist between North Iowa and Jamestown, other than Lucas Wahlin’s five-week stint there during that 2019-20 campaign.
The weekend stretch begins with a matchup of old and new in the Bulls’ Friday showdown with the South Division’s Amarillo Wranglers, starting at 5:15 p.m. The Wranglers replaced the Bulls in Amarillo following the Amarillo Bulls’ relocation to Mason City, and take their name from the Amarillo Wranglers professional teams that called the Texas Panhandle home in the 1960s and ’70s. The Wranglers “officially” took last season off from competition as well, becoming the Kansas City Scouts after two seasons as the Topeka Pilots. The Scouts never played a game after their relocation from Topeka was announced in early 2020.
The final game of the Showcase pits the Bulls against the Kenai River Brown Bears in the Showcase’s Saturday session, beginning at 6:00 p.m. The game will be a rematch for North Iowa associate head coach and general manager Kevin Murdock, who led the Brown Bears for the past two seasons before returning to the River City. Last year’s Kenai River team made history, earning its first Robertson Cup playoff berth since 2014 and bagging its first-ever playoff series, dispatching the top-seeded Janesville Jets in four games before taking the Minnesota Magicians to a decisive fifth game in the Midwest Division Finals.
All four games count in the regular-season standings, completing each team’s 60-game regular-season schedule. The NAHL Showcase attracts a crowd of over 9,000 annually, including more than 330 professional, college and junior scouts who use the event to get their first look at NAHL talent each season.
Daily passes to the showcase are $25 for adults and $15 for students, active military, veterans, first responders and seniors age 65 and older, and include all NAHL games being played on that day. Children age 8 and under are admitted free. Tournament passes are also available for $60 and $35, and include a commemorative program.
For more information on the NAHL Showcase, visit http://nahl.com/showcase/.