Hockey Fans Welcome First Minor League Team To Vermont

10/21/11 5:50PM By Amy Kolb Noyes
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(Host) With the Boston Bruins defending the Stanley Cup, spectator hockey is bigger than ever in New England.

And this fall, Vermont hockey fans will have another professional hockey team to root for.

VPR's Amy Noyes has more:

(Noyes) A quick look around the parking lot at Green Mountain Arena in Morrisville tells you something is going on here. The cars are from Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and even Ontario ...

Inside, hockey players have been vying all week for a spot on Vermont's first minor league hockey team - the Vermont Wild.                                                     

(Noyes) The team roster is nearly filled. But Vermont Wild General Manager Graham Kirk is hoping this Free Agent camp will attract some local talent.

(Kirk)" We're getting close to a full team but I wanted to leave a few spots open for the local people to come in and have a try-out - try to make the team a little more rounded, you know, so we're not getting everyone from Canada that nobody knows. (laughs) You know, it makes it easier for fans to get attached to them, I think, if there're locals on the team."

(Noyes) The Wild is part of the Federal Hockey League. It's a new league, just entering its second season.

Kirk says the FHL is expanding, and currently includes seven teams in the Northeast, plus a team in Danville, Illinois. It's professional hockey, but it's a few steps away from the NHL.

(Kirk)" So the Federal League is like single-A baseball;so it's equivalent to the Lake Monsters. And then the next tier is the ECHL and a couple of other leagues, and then the AHL is like triple-A hockey, and then it goes to the NHL."

(Noyes) The Green Mountain Arena is actually the second location the Wild considered for its home ice. The team - which at first was called the Rock Crushers - was slated to skate in Jay. Kirk says ice scheduling issues brought the team to Morrisville

Now that players are arriving in town, the buzz is spreading around Lamoille County and beyond. Kirk says hockey fans from Rutland all the way up to Quebec have called to ask about season tickets. Kirk's hopeful the Wild will attract a statewide following, and also fill a void in northern Vermont.

(Kirk) "There's nothing like this around here. You know, there's college hockey in Burlington, the Montpelier area has Norwich, but this is the first professional team in the Vermont history, so this is exciting for us."

(Noyes) After an intensive week-long training camp, the Wild's season kicks off October 29th. The team will play 25 regular season home games.

For VPR News, I'm Amy Noyes.

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