Gone are the Breezy Point North Stars. Now, the Minnesota Loons are set to take the ice at Breezy Point Arena.

The Loons is the new identity of the area’s North American Tier-III Hockey League team, with the goal of developing the skills of 16- to 20-year-old players before they hopefully move on to college hockey programs or higher-tier leagues, as well as put a competitive and entertaining product on the ice.

“We are an organization that is committed to helping players reach the next level,” co-owner Chris Stewart said. “Being in the NA3HL, we are kind of at the bottom of the food chain, but it is our goal to create a pipeline to get these guys on to higher leagues if that is where they want to be.”


"We are an organization that is committed to helping players reach the next level."

— Co-owner, Chris Stewart


Stewart spent 11 years in the NHL - including two stints with the Minnesota Wild - before officially retiring in the fall of 2020. As a Minnesota Hockey Camps alum, he has been coming to the area since 2006. After retiring from professional hockey and living in Edina, the pandemic made the lakes area “a place to hide out” for him.

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“We didn’t move here with the intention of starting a hockey team,” he said. “That wasn’t the plan at all. It all just kind of developed slowly as we got going here.”

He joins the ownership group with Craig Larson, Northern Lakes boys high school hockey coach and former general manager of the North Stars, and restaurant owner Tony Maucieri, whose family has been a staple of the local hockey scene for several years. The trio bought the team from the previous owners at Breezy Point Resort in April.

“It was a tough time for junior hockey, and the previous ownership just decided it was time to move on and sell the franchise,” Larson said. “We had the opportunity to purchase it and rebrand with local colors (black and red, like the Northern Lakes Lightning) and a name that kind of represents the lakes area.”

The Loons’ roster features none of the athletes who laced up for the North Stars when the team played its last game in 2019, and features a completely unique list of players. Despite this, ownership and management are confident in the team’s abilities.

“We have 16 players and three goalies that are committed to the game and are here to get better,” Stewart said. “The team is looking strong. We have some work to do though. We play Granite City back-to-back for our first two games, and that is going to be a good measuring stick.”

After purchasing the team in April, the Loons’ front office had roughly 14 days to sign players. Included on the team are some locally known names, including former Lightning forward Kyler Couture and Jaron Smith, who played for the Brainerd Warriors.

“It’s those local names that bring in fans,” Larson said. “We've got some stages that we're going to go through in terms of starting from scratch. In previous years with Breezy Point, they always had a base of players return, whereas we are bringing in all new faces. They will continue to grow as the year goes on.”

The team also has local names on the coaching staff in head coach Mike Muller and assistant coach Kegan Couture. Muller played for the University of Minnesota and was a second-round pick in the 1990 NHL Draft, then had a lengthy playing career in Russian, Canadian and mostly German hockey leagues before settling in the lakes area, while Couture is a product of the Northern Lakes program.

“It’s a grind being a junior hockey coach,” Larson said. “You’re coaching about 50 games and practicing every day and you are gone just about every weekend. You have to find people who have a passion for the game and a passion for development, and I think Mike has done a great job.”

The sale of the team came just a few months after the group purchased the Minnesota Hockey Camps and relocated them from Nisswa to Breezy Point.

“That kind of spurred the idea of ‘What else can we do for the hockey community?’” Larson said. “We are just getting started with what we want to accomplish, but it is important to have good business partners and relationships.”

In addition to having a desire to serve the hockey community, the owners also expressed an interest in having this new team serve the community at large.

“There are a lot of local families that are giving up a lot of time to house our kids,” Maucieri said. “An important part of building a community base is getting our guys out there and helping out with the associations and schools, and just start doing things the right way right away, where in the past, I think it maybe took a while.”

Larson said the team is always looking for additional “billet families” willing to house athletes who are not from the area.

Ownership expressed an interest in getting as many people to attend games as possible, and have come up with potential ways to make that happen. Stewart’s is perhaps the most straightforward.

“Winning is No. 1,” he said. “That would go a long way.”

While he agrees a winning product would bring fans to the arena, Maucieri also recognizes a need for the athletes to be engaged in the community if they hope the community to be engaged in them.

“You are seeing dedicated hockey players that have goals to excel and move up,” Maucieri said. “The more you see that, the more it inspires the younger kids … I think seeing the local high school team have a successful year inspired a lot of positive things as well.

“Community support is definitely huge for us. We want these kids out there. They are going to be volunteering and they are going to be visible.”

As the team gets set to begin its first season as the Loons, the new owners set their sights on making the program “a destination” for young, up-and-coming hockey talent, while also making sure the on-ice product is one hockey fans would like to see.

Stewart’s goal for the team is a simple one, but perhaps not an easy one: win a championship.

“That’s how we approach it,” Stewart said. “We want to win, but we have to keep building in the right direction and it won’t be overnight … Eventually, we want this to be the place to be on Friday nights. We want everybody to support the Loons and see a great product.”

Season opener

The Loons open the season with a home game against Granite City at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17, at the Breezy Point Arena.

Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.