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Chill getting warm reception as hockey players reach out

By Jo Anne Killeen  | Onalaska-Holmen Courier Life | Friday, November 26th, 2010

Area elementary students got to “chill out” last week with members of the Coulee Region Chill junior hockey team when the players visited schools.

Team members visiting schools — including Onalaska High School graduate Nathan Trannel, one of the players visiting Northern Hills Elementary — are all part of the effort to establish the Chill as a local institution during its first year at the OmniCenter in Onalaska.

“We’re trying to be as involved as we can with the hockey community and the community at large,” said Rik Franke, marketing, operations and multimedia manager for the Coulee Region Chill. “We do whatever we can in terms of providing merchandise, tickets and getting our guys out for whatever we’re requested.”

Left wingers David Ripple and Bryan Broder and right winger James Hughes visited Viking Elementary on Nov. 17, which happened to be National Young Readers Day.  Ripple said it was his first time representing a team in schools. “I did it because the team wants to give back to the community,” Ripple said.

Franke said plans are in the works to visit West Salem and Bangor schools, but no dates have been set.

Franke said team officials have been pretty pleased with the turnout at home games. The first home game was attended by more than 1,000 people, he said. “We’re gaining momentum and popularity.”

He acknowledged their home losses affect attendance. But with a 10-4-2 overall record (as of Nov. 18), Franke is optimistic the fans will keep coming.  The team got the community involved in naming the team’s penguin mascot. The winning idea: Shiver.

Team members also played baseball with the YMCA Miracle League team, and the team is arranging to sell Habitat for Humanity raffle tickets at a home game. Team members also have been out at the Sparta Boys & Girls Club for their golf outing and the Nathan Trannel Golf Tournament for the Onalaska Boosters, according to Franke.

Franke said the team also has been giving to a variety of sports teams, items for fundraising, and “contributed lots and lots of merchandise and tickets for those functions.”

The team is arranging a fundraiser for the Hunger Task Force, which will ask fans to come to the game with boxes of macaroni and cheese. “Those boxes make great noise-makers during the game,” Franke said.