Junior Hockey: WarHawks are on hold

Executive order means no hockey, likely until after Christmas, for Willmar’s NA3HL team

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Willmar WarHawks defenseman Ethan Mock moves in on goaltender Cooper Olson during an Oct. 1 team practice from the Willmar Civic Center. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — Instead of flying around on the ice, the Willmar WarHawks are in a holding pattern.

With Gov. Tim Walz’ Executive Order 20-99 shutting down youth sports, the WarHawks would be unable to have practices, group workouts or games until the order expires on Dec. 18.

Willmar is one of four teams in the NA3HL’s West Division located in Minnesota along with Granite City (St. Cloud area), Alexandria and New Ulm. The fifth team in the West is the North Iowa Bulls of Mason City.

With the holidays around that time, Willmar head coach/general manager Kirk Olimb said the most likely scenario is the team will be off until Dec. 28.

“Right now, we’re taking a four-week pause,” Olimb said. “It’s for the whole state, in our league and the North American Hockey League.”


Minnesota teams in the NAHL include: the Austin Bruins; Minnesota Wilderness (Cloquet); St. Cloud Norsemen; Minnesota Magicians (Richfield); Fairbanks Ice Dogs (temporary home in Marshall); and Kenai River Brown Bears (temporary home in Breezy Point).

In the span of the shutdown, the WarHawks would cancel six games: Wednesday at Granite City; Friday vs. New Ulm; Dec. 4 at New Ulm; Dec. 5 at Alexandria; Dec. 11 at New Ulm; and Dec. 12 at North Iowa.

Following the holiday break, the WarHawks (5-9-0) resume play on Dec. 31 at home against North Iowa. Willmar will also play on New Year’s Day at the Willmar Civic Center against Granite City. Six of the WarHawks’ nine games in January will be at home.

“The plan is to stick with the normal schedule and play on New Year’s Eve,” Olimb said.

Olimb said the league worked on trying to get an exemption to play like pro and college teams.

“The only way through for us would be to get grouped in with college and pro teams and have zero fans,” Olimb said. “It wouldn’t have been a problem for us since we have just one home game (in a four-week span). But it doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen.”

Olimb informed the billet families and let the players head home for Thanksgiving and, for now, through Christmas. While the players are gone, Olimb said he’ll stay in contact with the players during the shutdown, making sure they’re skating and staying in shape.

“Honestly, it’s uncharted territory,” Olimb said.


“It’s a weird position to be in. Hopefully it all works out.”

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Willmar WarHawks head coach Kirk Olimb instructs his team during a practice Oct. 1 from the Willmar Civic Center. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Joe Brown is a sports reporter for the West Central Tribune.

He can be reached via email at: or his office number: 320-214-4332.
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