By BRANDON WOOD firstname.lastname@example.org 10 hrs ago 0
OSWEGO — With their home rink and new team name decided, the Oswego Stampede can now focus on preparations for the 2017 season.
It was announced last week that the Stampede, a team in the North America Tier III Hockey League (NA3HL), would relocate to Oswego and play games at Crisafulli Rink.
Stampede owner and coach Mike Beavis, from Mexico, said the team is hoping to stay in the Port City for the long term.
“For us, we’re looking at long term,” Beavis said. “Generally, teams look year-to-year, but we are looking at three years minimum in Oswego, and then go on from there.”
The last junior team to play in Oswego was the Admirals, who played in the Ontario Provincial Jr. A Hockey League from 2005-07. Beavis was on the Admirals staff, and is excited for another chance to play in Oswego.
“We’re excited about Oswego,” Beavis said. “It’s a great city to play out of. Players are going to like it. There will be opportunities for part-time jobs for our guys, and also some of them are already looking at taking classes out of Oswego State.”
Below is a look at all the pieces that make up Oswego’s newest hockey team.
Beavis, 56, has lived in Mexico for 18 years. He and his wife have eight children and nine grandchildren. He has been coaching for more than 30 years, and since 1993 at the junior level.
He said that developing players and seeing players progress in the hockey ranks is very rewarding.
“The biggest reward for me is helping kids move on either to a higher level of junior or to college,” Beavis said.
The Stampede last season sent six players on to college hockey, Beavis said.
Beavis formed the Stampede in 2010 after “kicking around” the idea of team ownership for several years before that. One of the key factors in choosing to own a team was the fact that his priorities were different than the priorities of some of the other teams for whom he had worked.
“I worked for a lot of different people throughout the years, and I found that my values and the way I did things such as development, recruiting, and getting players promoted were different,” Beavis said. “A lot of times those things got lost on past teams and everything became about the money.”
The NA3HL is a 48-team pay-to-play league in Tier III junior hockey for players ages 16-20.
Each team can carry 25 players, and each player pays the same amount to play.
“We look to help move younger guys to Tier II or Tier I,” Beavis said. “The older guys, we look to get them into college because chances of them moving to a higher junior league are slim to none because of their age.”
Teams are allowed to bring back eligible players every season and also are allowed 12 tenders to add players that want to sign with a team before the draft.
Each team also gets eight draft selections, although the Stampede has seven this season because of a trade. The NA3HL Entry Draft is June 13 for players less than 21 years old on Dec. 31, 2016.
The Stampede will return six or seven players from last season’s team, Beavis said. Oswego’s Josh Wallace will be the team’s captain, and Mexico’s Trevor Forsythe will also be on the team.
Beavis said that the team is allowed up to three players from Canada or Europe, and that the majority of the Stampede’s players come from all over the United States.
During the season, the players from elsewhere will reside in the area, Beavis said. “Many guys will be looking for billet situations where a family will take in a player and be compensated for his room and board.”
Last season, the Stampede went 21-21-4 during their first year in the NA3HL. They made the playoffs but lost in the opening round.
“I think we should’ve went further than the first round,” Beavis said. “All in all, it was a really good season. Bills got paid, people moved on to college, and we have some solid returning players.”
The Stampede will play in the same six-team division they did last season, squaring off against the Jersey Shore Wildcats, Niagara Falls PowerHawks, Roc City Royals, Skylands Kings, and Binghamton Jr. Senators.
Another schedule highlight for the Stampede is when all 48 teams meet in Blaine, Minnesota every December for the NA3HL Showcase. This year’s date is still to be determined.
The Stampede has competed in several different leagues since debuting, and won the Northern States Hockey League in the 2012-13 season. After going 35-4-3 in the regular season, they won three playoff games to take the title.
After two seasons in the NSHL, the Stampede joined the North American 3 Eastern Hockey League for two years. Before the 2016-17 season, the NA3EHL was absorbed by the NA3HL.
The Stampede has also played home games in Cicero, Baldwinsville, and most recently Morrisville. While saying it was a positive experience, Beavis said playing in Morrisville had some drawbacks, too.
“It’s just too far away and the housing wasn’t what we needed it to be for the players, and neither was the fan support,” Beavis said.
Beavis added that playing in Oswego with a solid youth system could help.
“My plan right now is for the next three years to work with the youth and high school hockey programs as well as getting involved in the community,” Beavis said. “I think people are going to support us, and I think we’re going to support the community as well.”
With more than two months until training camp opens, Beavis said his summers are usually busier than during the actual regular season between draft preparations and recruiting.
“Summertime is more work for us compared to the regular season,” Beavis said. “The regular season is all about developing players and helping them move on, but the hard work is the offseason trying to put together your team.”
The Stampede will also be introducing themselves to Oswego in the coming months, with a press conference planned along with possible appearances for the team at Harborfest and the Fourth of July parade.
Training camp will open Sept. 5 with players on the ice three to four hours per day along with off-ice activities.