HELENA — When the Helena Bighorns take to the ice to open their season in Sheridan, Wyoming on Saturday the team will be doing some with some representation from their namesake.
Tyler Bloom and Gabe Swanson are born and raised in Helena, and now playing for the Bighorns. With Swanson taking a step up from high school hockey and Bloom returning to the Helena area after moving away as a teenager, head coach Damon Hanson said he hopes to build rapport with youth hockey programs in Helena to ensure community representation on the team moving forward.
"That's super important to us. I mean, in a perfect world, we would like one or two guys, you know from the Helena youth organization to be a part of our club. You know, and that takes time. We want to build that along the way," said Hanson.
Swanson, a 16-year-old goaltender, was invited to join the Bighorns for their training camp after attending practices last season. Now as the Bighorns get ready to open their season, he's excited about the prospect of challenging himself.
"I played high school here last year, and I also practiced with [the Bighorns] last year, and Damon really liked me. He wanted me to come to training camp and I made the team this year," said Swanson. "I would say these guys are a lot better than high school hockey. The game is way faster, shots are harder. So it'll be way more competitive and fun."
Bloom, who moved away at 14, will be making his return to the Capital City as a forward for the Bighorns and though he's excited to be back on the ice, it's also been a great chance to go down memory lane.
"It's super fun to see all the old people I know and obviously this rink has changed so much. The caliber of players are back to where it's at, and that's what we needed," said Bloom. "Everybody's really good friends. The coaching staff is really into what we are wanting to do with winning. The owners are there for us. This whole organization is really close together and that's something that you don't get a lot."
The Bighorns will open their season on Saturday in Sheriden, Wyoming, before their home-opener against the Butte Cobras on Sept. 18.