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Old 12-18-2009, 11:38 AM
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West Michigan Blizzard (Muskegon) Replace Hitmen

Muskegon- There is a new team in the All-American Hockey League, and it's playing in Muskegon, Michigan. The West Michigan Blizzard is joining the AAHL for the remainder of the 2009-10 season. The Blizzard has taken on the Hitmen roster, with the subtraction of a few players. The other spots on the roster will be filled with players obtained by the Hitmen in the AAHL dispersal draft of Blaze players.

The West Michigan Blizzard is run by the West Michigan Blizzard LLC, owned by Sandy Honeywell of New Jersey. She approached Hitmen head coach about coming into the league immediately to help keep a fifth team in this season. "I came to one of the Hitmen games and saw the passion and desire that the team had headed by their coach. I spoke with Matt for awhile and realized they weren't living in paradise, and I didn't want to see him and players go home," she said. Mrs. Honeywell added, "I decided after a few conversations with Matt and other league officials that I would come into the league immediately. Seeing and hearing what Matt and the other players were dealing with made my decision that much easier. They have such a desire to win, but at the time they did not have the tools to do so."

The Blizzard transition was headed by head coach and director of operations for the Hitmen, Matt Wiedenhoeft. Wiedenhoeft was in Battle Creek last season with the ownership change, and was able to make it easy for the new ownership. "I handled an ownership change once this season and last season as well. After speaking to Sandy, I was sold that she would be the best owner to coach for in this league, and excited to finish the rest of the season with her," said Wiedenhoeft. Matt continued, "I feel a huge monkey has been lifted off mine and my players' backs. The players will receive paychecks, the necessary equipment, the housing needed, and feel as if they are wanted." "We overcame obstacle after obstacle after obstacle to get to where we did. We all want to thank the fans in Detroit, and we will miss playing in front of them. The move to Muskegon will be an easy transition for most, but the ones who can't make it, they will be missed," concluded Wiedenhoeft.

The move to Muskegon is a great one for the All-American Hockey League. The city of Muskegon is the city to one of the most storied franchises in minor league hockey, and is celebrating its 50th year with minor league hockey. Muskegon is home to the Lumberjacks of the IHL, and they play out of the LC Walker Arena. The Walker Arena will be the new home to the West Michigan Blizzard as well. "The move to Muskegon was talked about between my good friend and Muskegon native, Nigel Hawryliw and I last week. After discussing all the factors with Nigel and his father, the Walker Arena manager, Sandy and I felt it was the best fit for the league, the players, and myself," stated Wiedenhoeft. He continued, "I know Muskegon, and the city has been wanting an additional sports franchise; however, basketball and football aren't it, when Muskegon is the second Hockey Town in Michigan."

Sandy was invited to last Sunday's Lumberjacks game versus Port Huron and was amazed by the building and crowd. "I walked in and knew instantly that this was the place to be," said Sandy. She finished, "I am proud to be able to work with a great facility group, the 'jacks ownership, and Wiedenhoeft to make this a successful venture. From everything I've heard, Muskegon is a great place for hockey and the fans are amazing. I'm excited for the new team to hit the ice at their new home."

The West Michigan Blizzard will finish their season in Muskegon at the Walker Arena and plan to continue to play there. The Blizzard have signed Muskegon natives Nigel Hawryliw, Adam Dekker, and Justin Grevious. The team is in discussions with a few other local players. The Blizzard are gearing up for a playoff run, sitting only four points out of the final playoff spot. The team's website will be up for viewing soon. Ticket prices will be $7 for adults and $5 for kids (12 & under). Check back for the new AAHL schedule for game times and dates, and information on how to purchase tickets.
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adam dekker, detroit hitmen, justin grevious, nigel hawryliw, west michigan blizzard

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