Who is Craig Patrick?

Published 6:49 am Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Growing up in Sioux City, Iowa, Craig Patrick was drawn to junior hockey.

A fan of the hometown Musketeers, Patrick soon decided it would be a dream of his to own and run a franchise someday. With four votes or more from the Austin City Council on Monday, that dream will soon become a reality.

Patrick has received approval from officials with the North American Hockey League to start a team, and the 45-year-old father of three living in Hudson, Wis., has picked Austin as his destination of choice. If approved, he’d like to have a team ready for the 2010-11 season, which starts in September.

“There are other places to go,” he said, “but I don’t want to go anywhere else.”

So far, Patrick has received support from the city with his plan to put the team in Riverside Arena. Austin’s parks and recreation board has backed the idea from the beginning, and the majority of council also seemed behind it during a Jan. 19 work session, when Patrick first introduced himself to the community publicly.

The plan calls for the city to spend roughly $70,000 upfront to renovate Riverside and make it ready for a new tenant. Parks and recreation director Kim Underwood said she anticipates the city to recoup the cost within two years, as Patrick is looking at $30,000 to $50,000 per year to rent the arena’s ice.

However, councilman Brian McAlister said he has trouble supporting public financing for sports franchises, whether it be tied to the Minnesota Twins or an Austin junior hockey team.

“I just can’t support tax dollars going to sports teams,” he said.

Patrick said he takes this and other criticisms in stride, understanding big projects rarely get unanimous support. But ultimately, he thinks most people will be excited when they realize the good a new team can do for the community.

This includes proposals to share arena revenue with local youth hockey, as well as the hotel and restaurant dollars out-of-city players could bring when traveling for games.

“It’ll have a very big economic impact on the whole town,” Patrick said.

It would seem that Patrick would know a thing or two about economics — he majored in the subject at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. From there, he made his way into the field of medical devices, eventually landing at Boston Scientific in 2004. He worked there in a managerial role until recently resigning to focus on his new hockey franchise.

Patrick said his career-to-date has provided him the financial means to take on the challenge, knowing full well that an NAHL team likely won’t become a cash cow.

“If you’re getting into it for (big profits), I’d say you’re foolish,” Patrick said. “No one’s making a ton of money.”

Instead, Patrick said he sees it as an investment not only into the community of Austin, but into the 20 or so young men who could skate for the team some day.

“It’s kind of a neat thing for everyone,” he said. “We’re doing the right thing for the city of Austin.”

As a sign of his willingness to invest into the team and the city, Patrick purchased a 9-by-13 “Jumbotron” screen last week, and the owner said he’s excited to do even more. He envisions game nights as events with promotions, giveaways and lots of fun for the whole family.

Patrick also wants the community to get involved with naming the team, something he hopes to do right away. He has a few ideas already — the Austin Bruins, for instance, as a nod to a certain historic National Hockey League team from Boston — but he hopes to see the winning name come from a fan, possibly in exchange for free season tickets.

“We’ll create a lot of excitement,” Patrick said.

Certainly, Patrick is excited as well for the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do this,” he said. “This is kind of just the right time.”

The NAHL, briefly

Founded: 1975

Current teams: 19

Notable regional teams: Albert Lea Thunder, North Iowa Outlaws, Owatonna Express

Website: www.nahl.com