Breck Bears hockey club replaces Breck Bucks in Rocky Mountain hockey league
August 24, 2016
Last winter, Summit County received its first taste of junior hockey with the Breckenridge Bucks, the town's inaugural team in the then-new Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League.
The Bucks have since moved on from Breckenridge, but the league and commissioner Mike Gempler decided it was important that Breckenridge retained a team for a second season. The local community showed its passion for the sport and came out in droves to support it. With the addition of the Steamboat Wranglers this year, the league is expanding from six to seven teams, but the league was in danger of losing one of its most supportive cities in Breckenridge.
Enter Joe Dibble, Kyle Forte and the Janesville Jets. The two Jets coaches are now owners of another new league franchise: the Breckenridge Bears. The Bears will serve as a developmental team for players recruited by the Jets, a Tier 2 team from Wisconsin in the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
This is a huge benefit for the Jets — and Breckenridge. The Bears become a pipeline team, which helps develop players from within to boost the upper-level squad. And, in doing so, they continue bringing elite hockey to the local community, providing local players and fans the opportunity to see players reach the next level of junior hockey and beyond to the professional level.
"This is all about the progress of the game and helping youth programs to be successful," Dibble and Forte said in a joint statement.
Desjardins at the helm
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Soon after announcing the new franchise in August, the Breck Bears named Zac Desjardins as new head coach. Desjardins was most recently the director of player personnel for the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Western States Hockey League. He's also coached with the Kenai River Brown Bears, Cambelltown Tigers and for Kent State University.
"The Bears were looking to finding a coach that had a successful track record in junior hockey, as well as a proven ability to develop players and promote them to the next level," Dibble said in a recent press release. "Coach Desjardins meets those requirements."
The Bears and Desjardins play their home opener against mountain rival Aspen on Sept. 30 at Stephen C. West Ice Arena.
New team, old faces
Although the Bucks are gone, it is likely that local hockey fans will see remnants from the old team playing with the new franchise. A list of players and coaches is currently unavailable, but the owners said that all team information (including a schedule and roster) would be made available as soon as possible through the league. Check for updates on the team website at http://www.gobreckbears.com.
Dibble, Forte and the Jets are renowned for service in the NAHL, as team players and coaches consistently lead the league in community service and volunteer hours. The ownership hopes to continue that practice in Breckenridge and has already established a firm connection with the local youth program, Summit Youth Hockey.
"It is important to us that the team fit into the community and not the other way around," Dibble and Forte said. "We hope that these athletes, who have aspirations to play at a higher level, demonstrate the best characteristics of our sport on and off the ice and are positive role models within the community."
This dedication to community has already had an impact in Janesville. Through sponsorships efforts, the Jets provided financial support for local youth hockey programs and kids who otherwise wouldn't have a chance to play the game.
Although the Bears ownership knows that it may take time to have the desired effect on the Breckenridge community, coming in with the right attitude is the first step towards growing the game and becoming a positive member of the community.
Despite the fact the Bears storm into town with little warning, the owners are sure the new team will provide the sort of high-level junior hockey the town is eager to see.
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