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StarTribune: Wild Coach Tries on Owner's Hat with Junior Team

By Michael Russo Star Tribune, 07/27/17, 3:45PM EDT



Even though he stepped down in April as coach of the New Ulm Steel, Jay Witta felt he owed it to Bruce Boudreau to provide an analysis of his son Brady’s first season as a goaltender in the North American Tier III Hockey League.


One lunch with Witta later, the Wild coach was suddenly on the accelerated path toward becoming the majority owner of the Minnesota Blue Ox in the 61-team United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL).



“Bruce and I hit it off. We have the same philosophies on how to develop the game and kids,” said Witta, a former Minnetonka High School captain who owns a marketing company in Bloomington. “He asked what I planned to do next, and I said, ‘What I’d really like to do is own my own team.’ He looked at me and goes, ‘Find us a team, and I’m in.’ ”


A week later, Witta called Boudreau and said, “I found a team.’ ”


“He goes, ‘What?’ ” Witta said, laughing. “I said, ‘I found us a team, and we have to move really fast or we’ll miss this season.’ He goes, ‘Slow down, slow down. I haven’t even talked to my wife yet.’ Long story short, we closed at the end of May.”


The expansion team — which is owned by Boudreau and his wife, Crystal, and three minority owners including coach and GM Witta — is in Coon Rapids and will debut its 44-game schedule at home Sept. 22. The Blue Ox will be in the league’s nine-team Midwest West Division, which includes four other teams (in Forest Lake, Blaine, Owatonna and Hudson) within a fairly short drive.


The Blue Ox will hold open tryouts for 17- through 20-year-olds Saturday and Sunday from noon-2 p.m. at the Coon Rapids Ice Center. Boudreau will be in attendance evaluating talent from the stands, signing autographs and “being Bruce,” Witta quipped.


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