Junior hockey returns to the Tampa Bay area this month, as the relocated Jacksonville IceDogs begin their first season of play in the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex.
The Tampa Bay Juniors will be operating two squads, one that will play in the Met League South(Opening weekend is September 11th and 12th against Palm Beach), and the other that will skate in the Southeast Junior Hockey League(Opening with the SEJHL Florida Showcase in Fort Myers on September 4th and 5th).
Team Owner and Coach Brett Strot must feel like he is caught in a whirlwind as he is juggling both the move of his team and his family and importantly focusing on myriad of items that go with both stocking his team and readying it for its inaugural season in Tampa Bay.
“The U-20 MJHL team provides a perfect companion to our U-18 South East Junior Hockey League team that Hockey International, the parent organization for both clubs will operate in Tampa” said Strot.
He went on to say that “Tampa Bay is an untapped market. We are also getting a boost from the revitalization of the local NHL franchise, the Tampa Bay Lightning. As interest soars about the changes for the Lightning, interest in our junior program is also taking off.”
Moving a hockey team isn’t easy. First there are facilities to find, new logos and uniforms to purchase, housing must be secured and of course players to be signed. To date, despite the short time frame involved with the move, much has been accomplished.
One of the first decisions Strot made after the move to Tampa Bay was to invest in the renovation of the team’s locker rooms. He sees this as a way of “showing his players that ownership intends to place players first.” This is part of Strot's broad goal of “establishing a culture that makes the Tampa Bay organization a place where players are the focus of the entire operation.”
Both teams will have their initial team meetings from 4:30pm to 6:30pm on August 25th at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Arena, with the team "meet and greet" for parents and players set for 7:00pm that same night.
Strot skated for the Madison Capitals of the USHL before playing four years of NCAA Division hockey for the University of Minnesota, before embarking on an 11-year professional career. After retiring as a player, he served as an assistant coach for Jacksonville of the Southern Professional Hockey League before getting into junior hockey ownership and management, initially in Jacksonville with the Ice Dogs and now in Tampa Bay.
Strot also looks to continue past success on the ice and in the placement of players. During the past two seasons, the Ice Dogs have represented the MJHL South at the USA Hockey Tier-III National Championships and have had players signed by the various junior ‘A” Hockey Leagues and colleges in North America.
For more information on the 2010-2011 season of Junior Hockey in Ellenton, please contact Tampa Juniors General Manager Kevin Wolter via email, here or here.
(Thanks to Phil Brand of the MJHL who contributed much of the material for this story.)