Where the Heck is Our Pro Hockey in Billings?
I enjoy local sports. Baseball, basketball, football, and more. So last year, when I read that Billings was getting a hockey team, obviously I was excited! But beyond a few press conferences, nothing has happened. Have you been wondering what the heck is actually going on with that news? I sure have been. Here’s what I’ve found:
Hockey was announced for Billings in 2021
Western Professional Hockey League announced the return of hockey for Billings at a press conference in 2021. Originally, a single A team was to play at Centennial Arena, with plans for an 8-team league. At this time, they announced a fan-encouraged vote for the name of the team (Billings Bullheads, Billings Roughnecks, Montana Magma or Montana Magic)... and we were to stay tuned for the future.
A General Manager is hired for the "Billings Blizzards"
Enter Keith Russ, co-owner of the new “Billings Blizzards” team. Keith in Feb 2022 announced the hiring of Stu Bertrand as the general manager for the Blizzards. Also at this announcement, they mentioned hopes to now play at First Interstate Arena (which isn’t able to host ice events on its own) -- even discussing dates with then-Marketing and Sales Director Ray Massie.
A Coach suits up for the hockey team
One month later, in March 2022, Pick Six Entertainment announced the hiring of coach Eddie LaPera. At that conference, Stu Bertrand expected a team announcement and a status update on hockey April 1, and was quite hopeful for the coming months.
But now…. What's the actual update?
After some research, I was able to reach out to the Western Professional Hockey League. In asking a few of my questions, here’s what I got.
Mainly… Where’s hockey?
WPHL said they are still very much engaged in the desire for Billings hockey, however these past few months things have been quieter than they would prefer.
Where will the team play?
WPHL said they are hopeful for the First Interstate Arena, however, that is unconfirmed.
(I called MetraPark, to see if they have heard anything, but no answer yet)
Why “Blizzards”, and not the name chosen by fans “Bullheads”?
WPHL said they are unsure, and Pick Six Entertainment made that decision.
After that call, I made attempts to contact Pick Six Entertainment, searching to chat with Keith Russ. Instead, the number listed for Keith went to Richard Rogers at Pick Six. Richard was unable to share much, beyond their hopes for the season to start in November. In asking if I could speak to Keith Russ, as I did call the number with his name attached, I was informed he is 100% focused on football and until that season ends, would not take my call.
Alrighty then. Here’s my overall take.
The Billings “Blizzards” may, or may not, be happening. It looks to me like Pick Six is far too invested in football, and other obligations. Just look at the website: billingsblizzardhockey.com Nothing but a hockey puck and an email address.
In talking to others familiar with the situation, the team is ready to go. The coach is ready. The merch is being made. But… they have nowhere to play, no start dates, and no teams to face off against. Hell, if you call the Sportsplex, the phone system doesn’t even mention the Blizzards.
In the end, if we DO get hockey, we’ll be lucky. At least we have the Outlaws (also owned by Pick Six) for now.