When Bill McCoshen and some friends explored the possibility of adding a Junior A hockey team in their home state of Wisconsin, they knew they’d need several ingredients to make it work.
First, they’d have to obtain an existing or expansion membership in a league to be determined. Then, they’d have to find the right town - a good sports town where the team would garner regular media coverage. Finally, they’d need to find a group of investors as passionate about the sport and its potential for growth at the Junior A level as they were.
And all of it would have to come together in a matter of months in order for it to work out for the 2009-10 season.
One of the first people McCoshen talked to about his vision for the team was San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski.
The idea appealed to Pavelski, who not only played high school hockey in the state, but, after a two-year Junior A apprenticeship, capped two seasons at the University of Wisconsin by helping lead the Badgers to the 2006 NCAA championship.
“I like the idea of giving Wisconsin players an opportunity to stay closer to home,” said Pavelski, who racked up 101 points in 84 NCAA games. “Maybe it’s a steppingstone to college for them. It’s important to have good hockey in Wisconsin and for the players to be able to see their families more often.”
The discussion went from buying an existing team to focusing efforts on landing an expansion team in the NAHL.
“There had never been a North American Hockey League franchise in the state; it was special to be the first,” McCoshen said. “And more players than ever from the league are landing Division I scholarships.”
McCoshen ultimately decided Janesville would be an ideal city for a team, and he quickly began to recruit potential investors from the business community.
“Joe brought a lot of credibility, which was important because I needed some prominent business people behind it,” McCoshen said.
Added Pavelski: “When I first got asked, I had to consider: Is this the right move at this stage? I’m only 25.
“Bill has done a great job putting the (ownership) team together. These are all smart business guys. The city has been great. The support they’ve given has been tremendous.”
That ultimately led to the formation of Wisconsin Hockey Partners, LLC, of which McCoshen serves as the managing partner.
“They (the investment group) understood Joe’s value to the membership the second they met him,” McCoshen said.
Once granted a membership in the late spring, McCoshen, who also serves as the club’s president had to assemble a coaching staff, tender players and work with the city on a needed update to Janesville Ice Arena.
Oh, and the franchise needed a name.
Thus, the Janesville Jets were born.
“Janesville was going through some tough times and we wanted to provide a spark to help it get on its way back,” McCoshen said. “We let the fans name the team. The community has bonded with the team, and Joe has been part of that as well.
“We’re super conscious of our price points on tickets, concessions, souvenirs. We want it to be an affordable entertainment option for families.”
While Pavelski’s name recognition is nice, McCoshen said it’s his motivation to further the sport in his home state that really stands out.
“We’re lucky to have him,” the club president said. “Joe came through the Wisconsin hockey system, as did I. And he continues to be as helpful as he can with an NHL player’s schedule. He’s just a genuine guy who believes in giving something back.”
And that, in part, is because Pavelski knows the benefits of junior hockey firsthand.
“The NAHL gives a lot of kids the chance to develop their skills at an age when development is very important,” he said. “To bring more teams into the mix is a great thing. Ultimately, to play college hockey you have to play one or two years of junior now.”