City Arena to host Waldorf hockey

Whatever void the Albert Lea Thunder left when they moved to Amarillo, Texas, in May, could be filled next winter by the newest tenants of the Albert Lea City Arena — the Waldorf Warriors.

Waldorf College announced Wednesday that they will launch a men’s hockey program for the 2011-12 season and will play its home games at the City Arena, according to a press release from the institution.

Bob Furland, the facilities manager for the City Arena, confirmed that the Warriors will be practicing there, too, but how often is yet to be determined. The team plans to play a club schedule initially, but eventually join a conference and play around 24 to 28 games per season at the City Arena.

According to the press release, the team will be coached by Douglas G. Ross, a four-time national championship coach, member of the 1967 U.S. Olympic hockey team and former coach at Kent State University and the University of Alabama-Hunstville. His career collegiate coaching record is 510-294-43.

“I know there is a lot of good hockey here in Iowa — over in Des Moines and Mason City, and in Minnesota,” Ross said in the press release. “There are some people who want to play hockey and get their education. This program is a good opportunity for high school students, college transfers and junior hockey players.”

Ross calls the agreement between Waldorf and the City Arena a “good marriage,” saying it will benefit youth hockey in Albert Lea.

“Our boys will be good role models for the younger players,” Ross said. “We will work with them at clinics and we hope that the Albert Lea community comes out and watches us play.”

Furland thinks they will.

“I think the college will really support the (Albert Lea) community, and the community will really support the college,” he said. Waldorf “is pretty gung-ho about being here.”

Waldorf College, of Forest City, Iowa, is 36 miles from City Arena. While the Warriors won’t be taking the ice until 2011, Ross said he will begin recruiting immediately in preparation for its inaugural season.

“The most important goal is to build a team that will play with a lot of passion, character and sportsmanship, and develop a good reputation,” Ross said. “We want them to achieve academically, too. I will work and give them 30 years of coaching experience and some 20 years of playing experience.”

Ross’s most impressive coaching achievement was what he accomplished during his time in Huntsville, Ala.

Taking over a relatively unknown program in 1982, Ross led the team to two club league national championships and later two Division II championships. During 2006, Ross’s last season with the team, the UAH Chargers participated in the NCAA Division I hockey tournament.

“The growth of hockey continues to rise in the U.S.,” Ross said. “Just about every state has hockey programs right now. I look forward to growing a team from the ground up at Waldorf just as I did at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. There will be a lot of national recognition for Waldorf with the addition of the hockey team.”

Furland expects no conflict over facility space between the Albert Lea hockey programs and Waldorf.

“I see it running smoother than it would with the NAHL,” he said.

The National American Hockey League stripped the owners of the Thunder of their team after a pay-to-play scandal erupted in November 2009 and following issues of ownership misreprsentation. The owners could have paid fines to regain the team but did not. The final game came in April 2010, and the roster was sold to an Amarillo expansion franchise.

Last winter, Austin received an expansion franchise named the Austin Bruins.

Waldorf College is a private, for-profit institution owned by Mayes Education, which signed an agreement to purchase the school in May 2009, with the sale completing the required red tape in January 2010.

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