Coming into the 2020 offseason, the SHL had one item atop their to-do list: find a buyer for the Dakota Jackalopes. The league assumed control of the Jackalopes from then-owner Roger Scott at the trading deadline, as the team encountered severe financial distress. They had no interest in continuing to operate the team next season, so they were eager to find a new owner as soon as possible. They understood that the new owner was likely to relocate the team. They didn’t expect, however, that the new owner would already be a member of the SHL family.
Colin Mills, co-owner of the Anchorage Igloos, officially agreed this weekend to purchase the Jackalopes franchise. Mills had reportedly been in talks with the league for several weeks, and the other owners unanimously approved the sale on Sunday. Upon taking ownership of the team, Mills announced that he would be moving it to Milwaukee.
“I am pleased to announce that this saga has finally reached its conclusion,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell. “We have tried for multiple years to seek an outcome that would allow the Jackalopes to remain in the Dakotas, but it has become painfully clear that the market was not viable. Now, the franchise has a new lease on life, with an owner who has the means and the track record of success, and in a city that can support it. I’m excited for great days ahead!”
For Mills, the choice of city was a no-brainer. “I love Milwaukee,” he said. “It’s a lively, fun city and a great place for a hockey team. Honestly, I can’t understand why there hasn’t been a team there from the start. I can’t wait to bring the Vandy to the shores of Lake Michigan!”
The new owner said that his first priority would be to hire a general manager, and then work with the new GM to hire a coach. The Jackalopes did not renew the contracts of GM Paul Mindegaard or coach Flim Dahlgren at the end of the season. Mills said that the new GM would have free rein in shaping the roster – and a healthy budget with which to do so. Dakota finished the season with the league’s smallest payroll.
“As an owner, I want to find the smartest GM I can, and then trust him to evaluate the talent and build a winning team,” Mills said. “One thing’s for sure, though: the days of salary dumps and avoiding high-dollar players are over. I want our team to have a competitive payroll, and we certainly have plenty of room under the cap to go stock up.”
The Jackalopes players reacted positively to news of their new owner. “I’m going to miss our fans in Dakota,” said LW Ryan Airston. “They were the best. But playing in front of bigger crowds, and knowing that we’ll be able to re-sign guys and go after big-name free agents, that’s really exciting! It’s such a change from the last few years that I’m still a little bit in shock.”
“I’m looking forward to having some stability, finally,” said LW Joe Freelander, who earlier this year called for the Jackalopes to move. “There’s been so much churn in the locker room, so many questions about what was going to happen. Now we have some answers and a stable future, and that will allow us to just focus on hockey.”
Mills said that he plans to hold a rally in Milwaukee soon, at which he will unveil the team’s new name and logo.
And what happens to the Igloos? Mills sold his share of the team to his co-owner, Leslie Mills. She seems to be looking forward to sole ownership. “Finally, I have total control!” Leslie Mills said. “It’s all mine! Hahahahaha!”