NA Now: Minnesota Magicians
The NA Now series features a look at all teams in the NAHL for the 2020-21 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team and will include video segments with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: Stu Bickel (1st Year)
2019-20 record: 53 GP, 21-23-9, 51 pts. (4th in Midwest Division)
2019-20 leading scorer: Marko Reifenberger (33 points)
2020-21 Division: Midwest
First regular season game: Friday, November 6th vs. Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Home opener: Friday, November 6th vs. Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Despite the Covid layoff, it has been an active six months for the NAHL’s Minnesota Magicians. When the cancelation of the 2019-20 season hit, the Magicians were perhaps playing their best hockey of the season. So much so that the team under then head coach AJ Bucchino had moved into 4th place in the Midwest Division, which was good enough for a playoff spot.
The Magicians also had a strong season in the NCAA commitment department, as 16 players made commitments throughout the 2019-20 season, making the team one of the league-leaders.
On June 16th, three months after the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the season early, the Magicians announced that Bucchino was assuming the role of President and General Manager and then hired former NHL player, Gopher and NAHL standout, Stu Bickel as their new Head Coach.
“We are in what is likely the best market in the United States in terms of exposure to college coaches and professional scouts. There is a tremendous amount of potential here and I will do everything I can to help our players achieve their goals. That starts with meeting with each guy and getting to know them on a personal level,” said Bickel, who is from nearby Chanhassen, Minnesota. “The timing worked out perfectly. In meeting with ownership, they are serious about winning and development, so overall, I thought it was a great fit and I can’t wait to get the season started.”
Bickel joins the Magicians following two seasons as an assistant at the University of Minnesota where he worked with both forwards and defensemen. Prior to joining the Gophers staff in 2018, the Minnesota native played 10 years professionally, including 76 regular-season NHL games with the New York Rangers and the Minnesota Wild as well as 18 Stanley Cup playoff games with the Rangers. As an amateur player, Bickel skated in 45 collegiate games with the University of Minnesota. In three seasons of junior hockey, he accumulated 122 games between the NAHL (Southern Minnesota Express) and USHL (Green Bay and Sioux Falls). During the 2005-06 season, he led the Express to a spot in the NAHL’s Robertson Cup Championship.
As for what type of team Bickel is wanting to put on the ice, he says that it will be one that pushes the pace and moves up and down the ice. “We’re going to be very up-tempo,” Bickel said. “The game has gotten quicker since I played in the league and, with that, I think you have to have players that not only can move quickly but can react to things quickly and make decisions quickly. That’s something that we will be putting a lot of emphasis on. Can this player skate and can he play with tempo? We want to play north. I’m not huge on east-west hockey. I want to get that puck moving north and get it moving toward the opposing net.”
As for who will be the players Bickel looks to for success and leadership to start the season, he did not drop any names, but is happy with the veteran group to begin the season. “Up front, we have a handful of returning guys, who should be able to produce and lead. I think delegating some responsibility to them will say a lot about where we go as a team,” said Bickel. “I am happy with our roster as it stands today. It will be a transition when we start training camp on October 5th. Everyone is in this for the greater good, so we have to make sure we are doing our part to stick to the guidelines the league as set forth. There are minimal restrictions on what we can do, so that has benefitted us, but we have to stay vigilant to make sure we can keep playing.”
Next Up: Minnesota Wilderness