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Spotlight Series: Training camp opens, excitement builds ahead of Home Opener

Thursday, October 12th
Spotlight Series: Training camp opens, excitement builds ahead of Home Opener

Coralville, Iowa – The birth of a new season inherently brings positivity and expectations. As the Iowa Heartlanders embark on their first few practices of 2023 training camp, the expectation for the players and staff is to be ready to learn and to hit the ground running.

“There’s a lot of excitement and exciting times ahead and we’re ready,” said Derek Damon, Head Coach and General Manager. “The staff and I have been foaming at the mouth getting ready to go.”

This is a special time of year in the ECHL, where a full offseason of preparing inevitably leads to a blitz until opening night, which is now a week away on October 19. As the season approaches, the hockey operations and front office continue to prepare.

“I’m very excited for the upcoming season and the opportunity this team has in front of them,” said Heartlanders President Matt Getz. “In the opening meeting on Saturday, I was impressed by the focus from our coaching staff, as well as the players who are vying for a spot on our roster. I’ve been told by several people within the organization that this year’s training camp feels different. The work ethic and competition I witnessed on the first day was everything I’d hoped it would be.”

“The first few days are extremely important – how we want to play and be as a team,” Damon said. “We’re instilling our systems and need to be ready for our first preseason game at Fort Wayne Oct. 14 and then the home opener after that.” 

The Roster 
The training camp roster contains a nice mix of seasoned professionals and talented new faces; 15 players at camp have at least a season of professional experience under their belt.

The roster features a number of notable returners that combine with talented new faces. The Heartlanders signed ten returners this summer, including fan-favorites Yuki Miura, Nolan Orzeck and Kevin McKernan. 

Among the new players, Odeen Tufto is starting his third full professional season and has produced just under a point-per-game pace in the ECHL. Davis Koch played four strong seasons in Europe and comes to the United States for the first time in his career. Between the pipes, Peyton Jones is in his fourth year and brings a healthy amount of ECHL and AHL experience, while Drew DeRidder completed his NCAA career at North Dakota last season and had a strong camp with the Iowa Wild. Hunter Jones was recently reassigned by Minnesota from the Iowa Wild to Heartlanders camp and is the winningest goaltender in Heartlanders history.

Derek Damon acknowledged that team building off and on the ice is important - getting to see familiar faces and meeting new ones – but that training camp also breeds competition.

“You see the difference between true pros and those trying to figure it out. It’s our job to make sure everyone is dialed in.”

Being A Part Of The Community
Beyond the on-ice performance, the club has also stressed the importance of being more than just hockey players on the ice, but role models in the community.

“I’ve been impressed with Head Coach Derek Damon since my first day here,” Getz said. “The passion he has for creating a winning organization is incredible – not just on the ice, but also in our community. He has the coaching staff and players fired up to put in the work needed to connect with the community, and I’m challenging our community to put that same energy into supporting our coaches and players.”

The team put together an exciting promotional schedule this summer and the team is continuing to work to expand its reach with its corporate partnerships. To view the team’s promotional schedule, visit iowaheartlanders.com/schedule.

The Heartlanders are hoping a strong start to the season on and off the ice will help build momentum. In the team’s first season, an opening night win in the first game in team history gave the club good energy. Last season, a few spurts came in the opening half of the season and the Heartlanders finished above hockey .500 over the last 3 months of the season. 

“We’re building something special here, and I can’t put into words how exciting that is,” Getz said. “If you don’t have plans for our opening two games on October 19th and October 20th, come out to our home opener and fall in love with this team. If you already have plans, cancel them. You’ll want to be here.”


Under the direction of Heartlanders Hockey LLC, 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.