|League||American West Hockey League|
|Home arena||Haynes Pavilion|
Maroon, White, Black, Silver
|Head coach||Steve "Harry" Harrison|
The Bozeman Icedogs are a Tier III Junior ice hockey team located in Bozeman, Montana. The team is a member of the American West Hockey League (AWHL). The Icedogs play home games at the Haynes Pavilion located at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds.
The Icedogs previcously played in the Junior A Tier II American Frontier Hockey League from 1996-1998. In 1998 the league changed name to the America West Hockey League from 1999-2003, when America West Hockey League merged with the North American Hockey League.
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Founded in 1996 by a Michigan-based investment group, the Icedogs were forced to play their entire first season on the road when the ownership team’s funding fell short with their rink only half-built. Despite the circumstances, which left them practicing at times outdoors and playing all ‘home’ games in Helena, Montana, the Icedogs, coached by David “Smoke” Cole and captained by Brad Michalski, earned a .500 record and a position in the AFHL playoffs. Forward Kevin Wesolek set a league record for single-season scoring as he captured 1996-1997 Rookie of the Year honors.
In the fall of 1997, the Icedogs moved into the brand new Valley Ice Garden, a state-of-the-art, 3,500-seat arena outside Bozeman. Bill Martel, owner of the Bozeman construction firm that had been building the facility, took over ownership of both the team and the arena, providing the Gallatin Valley with its first indoor ice skating facility. The rink opened to the public with an open house on September 14, 1997.
The Icedogs played their first game at the Valley Ice Garden on Tuesday, September 30, 1997, a 6-4 victory over the Butte (Mont.) Irish in front of a sellout crowd with Wesolek scoring the team’s first goal. The Icedogs went on to record sixteen- and seven-game unbeaten streaks while selling out nearly every game en route to a second place finish in the AFHL. Bozeman fell to the in-state rival Billings Bulls in six games in the Borne Cup Finals, but earned a berth in the Gold Cup National Championship Tournament, where they were eliminated in the first round of round robin play. Wesolek finished second in the AFHL in scoring and set a league record for career scoring, with 198 points over two seasons.
The 1998-1999 season brought less success for the Icedogs, who struggled throughout, and finished in last place in the AWHL, missing the playoffs for the first time. Forward Jimmy Sokol finished second in the league in scoring while linemate Jason Deitsch led the league in points-per-game.
The 1999-2000 season was a turbulent one for the Icedogs. After seven games, Cole was fired and replaced with assistant coach Dale “Duner” Hladun. The team failed to improve under Hladun, who was forced to leave the team due to visa issues and replaced by assistant coach Darren Blue. Amidst on-ice and off-ice distraction the Icedogs missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
In March 2000, the Bozeman Icedogs hired John LaFontaine, brother of NHL great Pat LaFontaine, as head coach and director of hockey operations. LaFontaine immediately turned the program around, leading the Icedogs to a .500 record and playoff appearance in his first season as coach. Goaltender Matt Dalton led the NAHL in saves percentage,setting NAHL records for goals against average and saves percentage. Forward Josh Heidinger led the league in scoring was voted the NAHL’s top forward. After defeating the Fairbanks (Alaska) Ice Dogs for their second Borne Cup title, the Icedogs fell to the Texas Tornado in the final game of the national championship Robertson Cup tournament in May 2006.
Later that month, following the dissolution of the Helena Bighorns and Billings Bulls, the Valley Ice Garden was sold to a beer distributor and the Icedogs were dissolved. The Junior B Bozeman Blackhawks took on the Icedogs moniker and play in Bozeman’s Haynes Pavilion. The NorPac moved from Junior B to Junior A Tier-III beginning in the 2007. In ten years, the original Icedogs made eight playoff appearances, three trips to the national tournament, and won two Borne Cup championships.
- 1996-1998 American Frontier Hockey League
- 1998-2003 America West Hockey League
- 2003-2006 North American Hockey League
- 2006-2011 Northern Pacific Hockey League
- 2011-current American West Hockey League
Notable Icedogs alumni
- Thomas Hajek (1996-1998) – All-star and team captain of the Philadelphia Wings of the National Lacrosse League
- Jason Deitsch (1998-1999) – 2006 UHL Rookie of the Year, assistant captain of Cincinnati Cyclones