Junior League hockey team hosts college night

| Scene Reporter

Friday is college night at Hardee’s Ice Plex, where the St. Louis Bandits will face the Traverse City North Stars in North American Hockey League (NAHL) play. In addition to offering live, high-quality hockey, the event features $1 drafts all evening, and the first 200 college students with a valid college ID will also receive a free hot dog.

The NAHL is the largest Junior A hockey circuit in the U.S., featuring 26 teams with players ages 16 to 20. For many of these athletes, playing in the NAHL is a stepping stone to playing in the National Hockey League (NHL) and at Division I universities.

“There’s a lot of work with colleges, and the coaches work with these players to get [them] into college,” said Courtney Robinson, the community events coordinator and gameday operations for the St. Louis Bandits.

Given the age bracket, many of the players are still in high school or are enrolled in college-level courses. This circumstance complicates training, requiring athletes to balance their 58-game schedule while working toward their academic goals. Consequently, most games are played on weekends.

Currently, the Bandits are ranked first in the North Division and second in the entire league. Game attendance ranges from 600 to 800 people, and Bandit players are usually well known throughout their communities.

“Our whole motto is ‘something fun for the whole family.’ It’s great entertainment for everyone. The kids enjoy it, it’s a great family environment, it’s inexpensive, it’s a good night out, it’s not really late and it’s good hockey,“ Robinson said.

Although the Bandits have not yet secured a spot in the playoffs, odds are in their favor. They were the North American Hockey League champions in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and were also the North Division champions in 2010.

The Bandits’ season ends in late March, and after playing the North Stars this weekend, the team will play two more series: one against the Topeka RoadRunners and one against the Chicago Hitmen, both of which are also in the North Division.

Friday’s game begins at 7:05 p.m. Hardee’s Ice Plex is located in Chesterfield, Mo. and, with a student ID, tickets are $5. Attendees also receives a raffle ticket upon entry, and there will be random drawings throughout the game for spectators to win gift cards for gas, groceries, and other undergraduate-friendly items.

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