NA Now: Wichita Falls Warriors
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.
Wichita Falls Warriors
Head Coach: Garrett Roth (1st Year)
2019-20 record: Did not play
2019-20 leading scorer: None
2020-21 Division: South
First regular season game: Friday, October 23rd vs. Odessa Jackalopes
Home opener: Friday, October 23rd vs. Odessa Jackalopes
A new era begins in Wichita Falls this season with the arrival of the expansion Wichita Falls Warriors. It has been almost a full year since the NAHL approved the membership back on October 15, 2019. Since that point the leadership has been busy developing a foundation that will hopefully lead to success in Year 1.
The Warriors, who will be a part of the six-team South Division in 2020-21, will be the third NAHL team to call the Kay Yeager Coliseum in Wichita Falls, Texas, as their home. It was formerly the home of the Wichita Falls Rustlers from 2002-04 and then the Wichita Falls Wildcats from 2004-17.
The team went through a lengthy process to find their first head coach and on April 14th, the Warriors announced that longtime Bismarck Bobcats assistant coach Garrett Roth would be the first bench boss in Warriors history. Roth had spent the past eight years as the Associate Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel for the Bobcats. Prior to that he was the assistant coach with the Aberdeen Wings in the NAHL for two seasons from 2010-12 where he helped shape the Wings into a playoff team in 2011-12, their second year as a franchise.
“We were excited to have Garrett join our Warrior family,” said Mary Anne Choi, Owner and Governor of the Warriors. “He exemplifies the standards and level of excellence I and the rest of our organization look for both on and off the ice. We are lucky to have him and are excited to see the impact he makes not only on the team and our players, but in the community as well.”
“The Warriors job was intriguing to me and throughout the entire hiring process, I agreed with the vision that leadership has for this team. It meshed with the organization that I had been with in Bismarck as far as being community driven and being about the players. It was a no-brainer for me and my family,” said Roth. “The reception by the city of Wichita Falls has been great. We recently had a meet and greet, and it was nice to talk to our motivated and passionate fans. It certainly has created a buzz around town, and we can’t wait to be playing in front of them and hear them cheering for us,” said Roth.
Through signing tenders, along with the NAHL Supplemental and Entry Drafts, the Warriors began the process of building a team, which makes their debut on October 23rd.
“We have only been on the ice three days, so everyone is in compete mode right now. I am excited about the nucleus of veteran players we have, who not only have NAHL experience, but experience playing in other junior leagues in North America. We have seen some really good leadership from our core group in the first week of training camp and we believe we got players whose best hockey is still ahead of them,” said Roth. “If we can create a good culture and guys are willing to work hard for one another, then we can have success this year and be competitive in the South Division.”
“One of the biggest challenges we had was making sure the guys we are bring to training camp are prepared. A lot of things are being done differently this season, be it the delayed start or the new protocols surrounding Covid, so we wanted to be sure when they got here, they were informed and ready to go,” said Roth. “One of the other big challenges we face is that there are a lot of good hockey players out there and there are going to be some difficult decisions that we are going to have to make, but we have tried to give everyone a clean slate and have an honest shot of making our hockey team this season.”
“Our goal is probably similar to every to other NAHL team, which is to make the playoff and give yourself a chance to compete for the Robertson Cup. The biggest focus for us starting the season is to make sure we are getting better every day. We want to be in a position to win every time we step on the ice. We have to make sure that we are prepared mentally and physically to handle the challenges of this season.”