Team eyes success in second season

Published 10:58 am Friday, September 9, 2011

Austin Bruins owner Craig Patrick stamps down chalk to outline the Bruins' logo on the ice last week at Riverside Arena. Patrick is looking ahead to the Bruins' second season with about as much excitement as one could. - Eric Johnson/

Austin Bruins’ owner Craig Patrick sat down to lunch Wednesday barely able to contain the excitement of the NAHL team’s second season in Riverside Arena.

No sooner had he sat down when he was already talking about the 2011-12 season.

“I’m so jacked up about this whole season,” he said.

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He has plenty of reason to be excited. The Bruins are coming off a year that saw them miss the playoffs with a 23-31-4 record, but at the same time the junior level team offered itself as a solid option on the weekends for the city of Austin.

As the season went on, the interest in the team climbed due to a combination of competitive hockey and plenty of community involvement.

Now, with half the team returning and the other half filled with new faces, the organization is ready for a new year with even more to offer.

“I thought (last year) was as good as it could have been,” Patrick said.

Little will change this year when it comes to the Bruins being involved in the community. Players will be plenty visible both on and off the ice.

“They’re going to be out all the time,” Patrick said. “We want them to be better human beings, helping to inspire young kids to be better.”

In that way last year the team and organization worked to gain the respect of the town they knew would have to support them. And in a lot of ways that started with the players and head coach Chris Tok.

“Chris requires a certain level from our guys,” Patrick said. “They have to be good guys.”

That mentality works with the three main goals the team is striving to reach.

“We have players developing the younger players and we’re helping the kids in Austin with someone to look up to,” Patrick said. “And overall it’s good fun and family entertainment.

The boys are back in town

Last Thursday the players were back in Austin and took part in their first team meeting.

Since that meeting, Patrick had his chance to talk with the players.

“They’re all really excited,” Patrick said. “We have a strong returning core.”

The overall commitment for the Bruins is to reach the playoffs and, like every other team, win the Robertson Cup.

“We want to win,” Patrick said. “We want to put together a winning team.”

A winning season can only help a team that has become a part of the community.

The more community involvement the more support the team receives and the more the team can give back. It’s a revolving cycle.

“We want people to come to the game and then we want them to come back,” Patrick said.

That was reflected in the solid attendance throughout the year last year, including the Paint the Rink Pink cancer fundraiser that ended up being a sell-out.

Through the 27 games held at Riverside Arena last season, The Bruins averaged over 450 most nights.

In the final 10 home games attendance went over 1,000 people four times.

What’s new

While many of the events from last year will return, there are some big new events on tap for this season staring on Saturday, Sept. 24 with the first annual Bowl with the Bruins event at Echo Lanes.

This will include the unveiling of the new 2011-2012 jerseys.

Then on Nov. 6 the Bruins will be hosting the U18 Norwegian National Team at 1:30 p.m.

“They’re going to be here a couple months and the league called around looking for interested teams,” Patrick said. “Of course we jumped on it. It feels fun.”

A pair of recliners will be offered up each night for two lucky fans through a drawing. The chairs will be set up in one of the corners of the rink.

The light show has been updated as well to be brighter and include full color and the searchlights that marked each home game last year will once again be marking the sky.

Can’t contain Bruiser

There is little doubt that among children Bruiser, the Bruins’ mascot, was one of the most popular aspects of any home game throughout the season.

He’ll be back, prowling the stands and the ice between periods. Rumor as it that the towering mascot will be strapping on some skates himself to further entertain the hometown crowd.

“Bruiser is very, very excited to be out in the community,” Patrick said. “It’s going to be hard to keep him down.”


The Bruins head north to Blaine next week for the NAHL Showcase Tournament at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine. The tournament will run Wednesday through Saturday.

After that, the Bruins will host the Aberdeen Wings of Aberdeen, S.D. at Riverside.

“I can’t be more excited,” Patrick said. “We want to challenge for a championship and the community has never been nicer. There’s not a high enough lever to guage my excitement.”