It’s been over a decade since the Gillette Wild Junior Hockey team came to life and the programs passion for growing the game of hockey in Northeastern Wyoming is still going strong.
Along with the on-ice practice and off-ice training that goes with being apart of the Wild organization, players can be found working weeknights along side local youth participating in the Campbell County Parks and Recreation Learn to Skate, and Blades and Avalanche Hockey programs.
“That speaks to the ownership. That’s really not me,” Gillette Head Coach Ethan Hayes said. “That was well underway before I got here. I think there is plenty of good people in this community that want to grow the sport. What we do as a team is these guys we bring in to town have to have the same mentality as ownership and want to grow the sport. We can not be selfish with our time or our knowledge.”
This Friday night at Spirit Hall Ice Arena kids who’ve been participating in the Blades and Avalanche program will be skating between the first and second period showing off their skills. The program is for kids between the ages of 5-8 and the seasons first session hosted over 40 participants.
“If we didn’t have the support of the young men on the junior team, I’m not sure the program would exist,” Intramural Program Supervisor for Campbell County Parks and Recreation Emily Moore said. “They are so good with the kids, and they show they care about them and about the entire program as a whole. They help make this thing work.”
As for the decade old decision to keep adding to the local hockey foundation, it looks to be paying dividends.
“It is nice to see these Gillette kids grow up with good exposure at the start of their career,” Wild Founder and Managing Partner Dwayne Dillinger said. “Over the last four or five years we are starting to see kids that started in the Learn to Skate program that are now playing on the junior team.”