The Austin Bruins: Right where they want to bePublished 3:19am Friday, March 8, 2013
In year 3, the Bruins are giving hockey fans what they want
—This feature originally appeared in Progress 2013. Get a copy at the Austin Daily Herald office, 310 Second St. NE.
The Austin Bruins are in their third year in Austin, and things couldn’t be much better. The team is winning and fans are showing up in big numbers.
It’s everything owner Craig Patrick imagined when he brought the team to Austin.
“When I come to the arena and I see all of the Bruins apparel in the crowd, it’s incredible to me. It’s all turning out how I’d hoped it would,” Patrick said. “It’s the town’s team now, and they should be here for a very, very long time. I can’t envision Austin without the Bruins at this point.”
The Bruins have already left a mark in Austin, and it goes far beyond the Friday and Saturday nights in Riverside Arena. Some of the Bruins’ players are becoming local celebrities, as they are often spotted by children and store owners around town.
They also give back to those same children as the team makes school visits throughout the year.
“The kids really love our visits, and sometimes when we’re at a restaurant we’ll hear a kid kind of mutter one of our names,” Austin goalie Nicholas Lehr said. “ It’s really cool to be at this age and have kids looking up to you.”
Lehr, who was named goalie of the month for December 2012, has grown into a solid player for the Bruins. He said it helps that he feels right at home with the team.
“Coming into junior hockey I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Lehr said. “We spend eight or nine months of the year [together] and everybody gets close. It’s really like a whole new family.”
Patrick gives credit to Bruins head coach Chris Tok and his assistants Jamie Huffman and Keaton Wolf, who have done a lot of recruiting to bring talented players to Austin.
“Our goal is to win a national championship every year, and player development and improvement is paramount,” Patrick said. “Chris has done a really good job of teaching them about hockey and being involved in the community.”
The more the Bruins stay involved in the community, the better the chances of them sticking around in Austin will be.
Owner of the Austin Bruins
Town: Hudson, Wis.
Fun fact: Likes hunting and fishing.