Hudson Havoc prepares hockey players for the future.
Eighteen-year-old Kaleb Kinsky recently moved to Hudson from his hometown of Dike, Iowa with high hopes for the upcoming hockey season. Kinsky is a first-year member of the Hudson Havoc, a junior A hockey team that competes in the United States Premier Hockey League’s Midwest West Division. Like many players in the league, Kinsky hopes to have a good season and catch the eye of college scouts, which could possibly lead to an athletic scholarship.
Now in its second season, the Havoc is affiliated with the Chicago Fury, which is a player development organization for players ages 10 to 18 who want to work on their game and improve their skills. The Chicago team’s co-owners are former college and National Hockey League (NHL) players.
Havoc co-owner Jimmy Andersson has been co-director of hockey operations for the Chicago Fury since 2007 and head coach of the Chicago Fury 11U (11 and older) and 12U teams. He played college hockey at Brown University and four professional seasons in Europe.
Co-owner Dennis Vaske played college hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and nine years in the NHL with the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins. Currently, Vaske is co-director of hockey operations and director of player advancement for the Chicago Fury and head coach of the Fury 18U team.
Co-owner Darren McCluskey is director of goaltender development for the Havoc, and coach of the Chicago Fury 13U and 14U teams. With 30 years of experience as an AAA head coach, he played in the Ontario Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League. McCluskey is also a member of the player development committee for the United State National Development Team.
Kinsky spent the past three seasons playing AAA junior hockey with teams in Madison, Wis. (Madison Capitals), Des Moines (Iowa Wild, a team affiliated with the Minnesota Wild) and Chicago (Chicago Fury, which is coached by Vaske.) The competition became better at each stop, he notes. “Madison was a lot faster paced, and Chicago was even faster, with older players,” says Kinsky, who started skating at the age of 8. Wearing the Havoc’s red, black and white jersey represents another step up in quality and intensity of play.
In Hudson, Kinsky lives with the family of teammate Derek Pflug and pays monthly room and board. He hopes to score at least 20 goals this season and also hopes his versatility will be a factor; he can play all three forward positions, making him a valuable fill in for injured players.
New Richmond, Wis. resident Dylan Marty led the team in scoring last season with 22 goals and 14 assists. Before joining the Havoc, Marty played with the Madison Capitals Triple A junior team.
Marty hopes another season with the Havoc will prepare him to play division 1 college hockey. He appreciates the league’s higher level of competition, with players as old as 21. “The players at this level are older, faster and stronger, and they make better decisions, at a faster pace, which can help you improve your game,” Marty says.
Last season, Marty missed 10 games with a concussion. This year, he hopes to stay healthy for a full season and is shooting for 65 to 75 points. He has communicated by email with a couple of college scouts, including one from the University of Wisconsin. “This league gets you a lot of exposure to scouts,” he says, particularly at the three showcases the team plays in each year in Boston and Chicago.
Also hoping for better results this season is Havoc coach and general manager Brett Wall. A Huber Heights, Ohio native, Wall took the job on short notice in August 2017, after the previous coach dropped out. Wall, who played college hockey at Lake Superior State, had been working with college players as a skills coach. He’s impressed by the St. Croix Valley area. “I left a good situation in Ohio to take the job here. It was a leap of faith. But, when I saw the community here, I knew I had made the right decision,” he says.
Rather than a typical entire summer, Wall only had about 15 days to put a team together, “starting from scratch,” he says, and the result was a losing season and last place finish. This year, he was able to spend an entire summer recruiting players, so he expects the team to compile a much better record this season. The team plays its games in the Gornick Arena, located in the Hudson Sports and Civic Center. Including exhibitions and showcase games, the Havoc will play about 50 games this season.
As coach, part of his job is helping players improve over the course of a season, to prepare them to make the leap to college hockey. “This is definitely a development league that really pushes you as a player, gives you a chance to work on what your game needs,” he says.
Players reported to camp on August 29, and the season can last as long as mid-March, depending on how teams perform in the playoffs. The five days a week training schedule, plus games, makes for a demanding season similar to the pace of a college hockey season. Handling the daily grind, sweat and risk of injury at upper-level junior hockey “takes a unique and tough-minded individual, a professional approach and mindset,” Wall says. “This league weeds out the ones who will be able to do it.”
The league is also something of a melting pot, with players coming from as far away as Europe, This season, the Havoc roster includes two players from Sweden and one from Finland, along with players from states like Texas, Florida, New York and Ohio. “It’s an awesome opportunity for these kids ages 15 to 21 to meet people from different places around the world and learn about other cultures,” says Wall.
The team carries 25 players on the roster, but only 20 can suit up for games—which makes for a highly competitive situation within the team, Wall notes. Along with their game performance and hard work in training and practice, players are also judged by “how they handle themselves in the community,” he says. “Ice time is earned, not given; accountability is at an all-time high. A lot of guys would die for the opportunity to be here. A college scholarship is worth a lot. We want to help our players go as far as they can.
Upcoming Games at the Hudson Havoc Civic Center
– January 13th vs. the Minnesota Blue Ox
– January 19th vs. the Kasson Vipers
– January 20th vs. the Minnesota Blue Ox