The Bighorns are still the Bighorns, but there’s a new man behind the brand.
Longtime owner Oren Koules, also a former majority owner of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, started shopping the organization after the conclusion of this past season. And, if a new owner wasn’t found, there was a chance that the Bighorns would, in fact, go dormant.
That is no longer a concern.
Local businessman Randy Rose officially took ownership of the Bighorns on Wednesday, with money changing hands and paperwork signed. Koules does, however, maintain ownership of the Helena Ice Arena. The president of Evolution Entertainment, a Hollywood movie production company, Koules had owned the Helena Bighorns since 2001.
Rose declined an interview request, but the team will be holding an official press conference on Tuesday, June 6, to announce the change and introduce Rose to sponsors and fans. Rose will, at that time, address the media.
But as far as the team goes, no introductions are really needed.
Randy, his wife Keiko, and teenage daughter Kumi, have been a host family for Bighorns players for six years, since moving to Clancy from San Diego.
“We loved hockey there, and found out that there was a local boy, Theo Campe, from the same town we’d come from,” Rose said in a previous interview with the Independent Record. “We said, ‘We’ve gotta watch him play.’ We watched him play and fell in love with the team.”
Rose soon became the president of the booster club, and then the Rose family became a billet family for the club.
The first player hosted by the Roses was Alaskan Jacob Wolter -- who, despite having left Helena years ago, now sends a text to Randy every Father’s Day.
“Mr. Rose instantly made me feel like a member of the family. He was great,” Wolter said. “He never asked anything of me -- he just expected me to be a member of the family. I had some chores, made sure my room stayed clean … and mowed the lawn every once in a while. Though, I’m not sure if I ever did the whole thing.
“He’s a great man. I could talk about him all day if I wanted to. He made my experience a lot better than it could have been.”
The family has been hosting as many as three players a year ever since, and often has the team over for meals.
The team has bonded with the Rose family every season. In fact, when Rose became president of the booster club, it wasn’t originally his idea.
“That first season was not over, and the team had a meeting and decided I was going to be the booster club president,” Rose said in a release from the team Wednesday. “I knew nothing about it, and they did not take ‘no’ as an answer. I became the BC president, my wife opened Keiko’s kitchen (what they called the kitchen in our home) to the guys for many dinners, and my daughter started selling chuck-a-pucks for the booster club.
“Then, this spring the unthinkable happened, and we had the opportunity to buy the team and carry on the great tradition of the Bighorns. We are truly blessed to be part of the community and the Helena Bighorns!”