The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced that its Board of Governors has accepted the membership application for an expansion team in Minot, North Dakota.
The team, which will be named the Minotauros (Tauros), will begin play in the 2011-12 season and play their home games in the existing main rink of Maysa Arena, presently a twin-sheet complex being expanded to become a multi-purpose facility with three ice surfaces.
"We couldn't be happier to welcome the Tauros to our league," said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. "Minot is a great addition to our Central Division footprint and, behind a sound, hockey-savvy ownership group committed to both the local community and player development, the Tauros represent everything the NAHL stands for, both on and off the ice."
The Tauros are owned by Heavy Metal Hockey Inc. (HMH) and PlayForward Sports Group Inc. - two companies focused on furthering the development and training of hockey players and all-round athletes.
Benjamin J. Johnson, president of HMH, will serve as the team's head coach and general manager.
Johnson boasts an impressive resume both as a player and a coach, having guided the prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school to back-to-back national championships in addition to coaching in Europe.
A Duluth, Minn., native, Johnson skated for Duluth East High School before playing junior hockey in the United States Hockey League. He also played two seasons in the Western Hockey League - he competed for a Memorial Cup championship with the Spokane Chiefs in 1998 - and won a gold medal as a player with Team USA at the 2007 Deaf Olympics.
"We're very excited to join a premier league and re-establish a junior hockey presence in Minot," said Johnson. "We share the NAHL's commitment to excellence, both on the ice and in the classroom.
"Our top priority is producing further opportunities for players to develop their skills, advance to the next level and, ultimately, become future leaders in their respective communities."
Marty Murray, Jarrod Olson, Terry Dunbar and Jason Blackburn - all of whom are committed to the team's developmental philosophy and bring a solid work ethic and strong leadership skills to the organization - round out the Tauros coaching contingent.
"We're excited with the staff we have in place," said Johnson. "All of our coaches have a tremendous amount of experience in the game and are well respected in the hockey community."
Minot is no stranger to junior hockey. In 2000-01, the Minot Muskies played in the America West Hockey League, which merged with the NAHL in 2003. In its only season, the team fashioned a 38-18-4 record and averaged over 1,700 fans a game in attendance.
From 1994-97, the Minot Top Guns were members of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
"There's such a rich hockey history in Minot, especially junior hockey," said Frankenfeld. "Behind the experience and leadership of Ben Johnson and the rest of the Tauros' ownership group and coaching staff, we expect that tradition to flourish again for years to come."
The Tauros are the second NAHL team to call North Dakota home, along with the Bismarck Bobcats. The close geographic proximity of the Aberdeen Wings and Alexandria Blizzard also benefits the participating student-athletes from a travel perspective while generating more rivalries within the Central Division.
"Our entry into the NAHL is sure to bring even more entertainment to the passionate fans in an already-competitive division and provides an exciting brand of hockey for the league's newest community," said Johnson.
Minot also showcases a thriving youth hockey system with 500 players participating in its various programs. As a community-based organization, the Tauros are eager to work closely with players, coaches and families with the goal of seeing many local prospects skating for the Tauros in the not-too-distant future.
"The aspirations of the Minotauros organization is to have Minot become the destination of choice for all prospective hockey players who are looking for an organization to grow with and the opportunity of advancing to the next level," said Johnson.
For more information on the Minotauros, visit MinotaurosHockey.com.