AUSTIN, MN – The Austin Bruins, proud members of the North American Hockey League, officially announced on Wednesday that they have reached an agreement to purchase the Rochester Ice Hawks NA3HL franchise and gained approval from the Rochester Parks and Recreation Board. As part of the transition, the organization will be rebranded the “Rochester Grizzlies” and serve as an affiliate pipeline to the NAHL team in Austin.
The ownership teams consists of business partners Craig Patrick and Mike Cooper. Patrick is the original founder and owner of the Bruins, bringing them to Austin in 2010. Cooper became his partner in 2014, and also owns a Papa Murphy’s pizza franchise, operating in Austin, Albert Lea, Owatonna, and Mason City, IA.
“We are truly excited to be a part of the community here in Rochester,” Patrick said. “The Bruins organization has always stood for service in schools, youth hockey and other volunteering opportunities. We are looking forward to continuing these and other traditions such as ‘Paint the Rink Pink’ that will benefit the community.”
The Ice Hawks began as a Minnesota Junior Hockey League franchise in 1996, competing in the MnJHL until 2014-15 when they became an NA3HL member. The Ice Hawks saw great success in the MnJHL, winning six consecutive “Bush Cup” Championships from 2004-05 to 2009-10. Since moving to the NA3HL however, they have never won more than 10 games in a season. The 2017-18 team finished 6-39-1, missing out on the postseason.
The Bruins will utilize the Grizzlies franchise an as affiliate organization to serve as a breeding ground for prospective players for the NAHL team. This model is already prevalent within the NAHL and NA3HL, including the Coulee Region Chill and La Crosse Freeze, who also share the same ownership.
The purchase by Patrick and Cooper comes with the hope of attracting more players from the Southeast Minnesota market to develop through the Bruins system. Mayo High School’s Logan Haskins played for the Bruins from 2015-17 while John Marshall standout Xander Lamppa currently plays in Austin. Current Minnesota-State Mankato defenseman Riese Zmolek (Century High) is another notable Rochester name to have come through Austin.
“We want to create the ‘destination’ for all things Junior hockey in Southeast Minnesota,” said Cooper. “Having teams in both markets allows us the chance to utilize the best talent that the region has to offer. We look forward to being part of the Rochester community and helping out in schools and youth hockey.”
Craig Patrick asserts that the Rochester organization fully intends on bringing a winning culture back to the hockey fans of Rochester, while also serving as first-class entertainment.
“We will strive for excellence on the ice and off. The hockey goal every season is to win the National Championship. Our entertainment package and in game fun will make it a great night out for all.”
The Bruins are actively searching for coaching candidates to comprise the new Rochester staff.