Three weeks ago, the Helena Bighorns officially changed hands.
On Tuesday, the organization formally introduced Randy Rose as the team’s new owner to local media, sponsors and supporters.
“It’s an honor for my family to be a part of this community, as well as part of the Bighorns for the last many years,” said Rose at the Helena Ice Arena, flanked by his daughter, Kumi, and second-year coach Bob Richards. “And transitioning into a new role, we’re hoping that we bring a future that’s as great as our past.”
Rose and his family have been involved with the Bighorns since they moved to Clancy in 2012. Initially drawn to the team because of player Theo Campe, who like the Rose family was from California, the puzzle pieces quickly fell into place.
They became a billet family, hosting several players each season. It wasn’t long before the players persuaded Rose to become president of the booster club.
Team owner is certainly a big jump from the booster club. But after getting advice from Stan Senechal -- who was integral in the Bighorns’ birth in Helena -- and much discussion with his family, Rose said it just felt like the right fit.
“We worked with Stan quite a bit; he was kind of a mentor to me on what it was going to be all about, what to expect, the pros and the cons and what we were going to have to do,” Rose said.
“I could not have done this without his guidance and leadership. Going forward, I’m going to be leaning on him quite a bit, I’m sure, helping me through the process. He’s been a friend to my family for quite a few years. We respect him and really want to reach out to him whenever we can to try to make sure that we’re going down the right path.”
Right now, that path involves player recruitment.
Ten to 12 players from last year can be expected to return in the fall for the upcoming season, but that leaves more than half a roster to fill, and not much time to make it happen.
That’s why Richards has been on the road for weeks already, and will be back on the recruiting trail again next week. He said that having Rose as an owner will be a good thing for not only the team, but for the community as well.
“Obviously, it’s a change. But I think it’ll be a good change, especially for the community,” Richards said. “It’s nice that (former owner) Oren (Koules) is still the owner of the rink here and made a commitment to us for that, but I think definitely it’s going to be good for the community to have an owner that’s local, as well.
“As successful as Oren was, it’s still nice to be able to talk to someone face to face, especially about any problems and things like that going forward. And I think as a coach, even as a fan of hockey, in a community like Helena, it’s nice to know that when the fans are supporting us, it’s a local guy here that they’re supporting as well. It’s a member of their community.”
Changes will, Rose said, inevitably come.
But they won’t be arbitrary, and there aren’t any massive shifts on the horizon.
For now, the focus is on the upcoming season and finding a way to improve. The team fell in the first round of the NA3HL Frontier Division playoffs last year, returning to the postseason after missing out for the first time since the organization's arrival in 2001 in the 2015-16 campaign.
It was, especially with a first-year coach and one of the youngest teams in the league, a good start. But there's work still to be done, Rose said.
“Our goal, in talking with Coach, this year we want to get better. Next year we want to get even better. And then we want to get great,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, so right now our focus is on recruiting, getting 25 great players that are going to be able to get out there on the ice and play well for us and represent the community. I think right now that’s our biggest challenge and our biggest goal.”