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Spotlight Series: Heartlanders players, coaches get “family” treatment at Minnesota Wild camps

Wednesday, September 27th
Spotlight Series: Heartlanders players, coaches get “family” treatment at Minnesota Wild camps

Coralville, Iowa – Over the last few weeks, select Heartlanders players and staff have received opportunities to receive “NHL call-ups,” heading to St. Paul, Minnesota for the Tom Kurvers Prospects Showcase and Minnesota Wild Training Camp.

Defenseman Ben Brinkman (ECHL contract) and former Heartlanders forward Louis Boudon (signed to an AHL deal with Iowa Wild) each skated at prospects camp last week as the Wild opposed the St. Louis Blues prospects and Chicago Blackhawks prospects.

This week, 2023 summer signings Brinkman and goaltender Peyton Jones are up in St. Paul for Training Camp, joined by former Heartlanders Hunter Jones and Boudon. 

“When I was talking to Ben Brinkman and told him the news, I told him you don’t get many opportunities to go to an NHL training camp,” Head Coach & General Manager Derek Damon said. “Any time you have that opportunity, you get to get in front of the NHL brass and the NHL General Manager and have that chance to show how you play the game. It’s special and they don’t hand out those opportunities to everyone.”

Damon and Heartlanders Associate Coach Joe Exter were up in St. Paul last week for Prospects Camp. Even for Damon, who played more than a decade professionally and has been in Minnesota for past camps, being in St. Paul always provides a special feeling.“You know you’re in the best league in the world when you walk in,” he said. “Everything is first class – from the weight rooms, to the locker rooms to the five-star chefs they have preparing lunch. It’s a great opportunity for the players in our organization and our staff. They make us feel like one big family with the Iowa Wild and Minnesota Wild.”

Pipeline to Minnesota helping Heartlanders build for Year 3

It's been slightly more than a year since Damon became Heartlanders Head Coach and hired a sterling staff to accompany him; Exter and Video Coach and Team Services Coordinator Eric Michaud. 

Now heading into year two as Head Coach and his third season with the organization, Damon has keyed in on finding the “identity” that will shape the Heartlanders for years to come. Part of that identity has been capitalizing on the geographical and affiliation strength the Heartlanders already have – being a two-hour drive from the Minnesota border and another two from arguably the richest area of American-born hockey talent in the country, the Twin Cities.

“We are so close to the State of Hockey Minnesota,” Damon said. “Being affiliated and neighbors, we feel that it’s a great place to have players close to home. We’re attracting players that one day might play for the Minnesota Wild. When you grow up in Minnesota, you have those feelings to one day dream to play for the Wild. We’re associated with that.”

Sticking true to the identity has aided the Heartlanders this offseason; the team signed high-end Minnesota natives Odeen Tufto, Ben Brinkman, Robbie Stucker and Jesse Jacques to ECHL contracts. Beyond that, Midwesterners Drew DeRidder, Chris Lipe and Justin Michaelian also signed ECHL deals. It’s all part of the design to take advantage of keeping talent from the Heartland close to home.

“Our name recognition is a part of it going into year three,” Damon concluded. “Another part is our staff spending the time recruiting and scouting. We’ve identified players that will make us better as an organization. People aren’t asking who we are anymore. They know what it means to be a part of the Iowa Heartlanders.”

The Heartlanders are set to open training camp in two weeks at Xtream Arena, with the home opener slated for October 20 vs. Rapid City. Season ticket memberships, mini-plans, partial plans, group tickets, flex vouchers and single-game tickets are available for the 2023-24 season by visiting iowaheartlanders.com/tickets and by calling 319-569-4625.Under the direction of Heartlanders Hockey LLC and the new ownership of the team led by Michael Devlin, the Heartlanders are looking forward to a successful 2023-24 season and expanding the team’ reach in eastern Iowa. To learn more about corporate partnership opportunities with the club and join the Heartlanders family, please call 319-569-4625 or email info@iowaheartlanders.com.