The Butte Cobras don’t plan to miss a beat and expect to be ready for the 2017-18 hockey season when it kicks off in the fall.
The Butte Amateur Hockey Association purchased the Glacier Nationals, which will relocate to Butte and become the Cobras, BAHA president Mike Flanick confirmed on Tuesday.
The Cobras will no longer be a part of the Western States Hockey League but will join the Frontier Conference of the North American 3 Hockey League. The NA3 league confirmed the move on its website.
The move to the new league makes sense and will cut down on travel for the team while allowing Butte fans to travel to some of the road games.
“The Butte Cobras were the only team in Montana in the Western States Hockey League,” Flanick explained. “All of the teams they competed against were in Washington or Boise or Lake Tahoe and there was a lot of travel involved. There was no competition with local teams.”
The move to the NA3’s Frontier Division will not only change the landscape for the Cobras but it will also lead to the creation of new rivalries among teams.
Teams in the Frontier Conference include the Billings Bulls, Bozeman Icedogs, Gillette (Wyoming) Wild, Great Falls Americans, Helena Bighorns, Missoula Junior Bruins and Yellowstone (Wyoming) Quakes.
“Havre was folding up and they were also an NA3 team,” Flanick added. “We were able to purchase that team and move them here from Havre. They will still have the Cobras name for name recognition for local fans.
“The board did vote on approving to move forward with the junior team here in Butte. They voted to own them and purchase the franchise but they will run it as a separate entity.”
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The purchase was accompanied by the hiring of Greg Sears as the next Butte Cobras coach. Sears was an assistant coach with the Yellowstone Quakes last season and has spent previous seasons coaching at various levels.
Sears, 35, wasn’t planning to stay with the Quakes for more than one season, and jumped at the chance to land the Cobras job.
“My time in Yellowstone was always planned to be a one-and-done,” Sears said. “Now that I spent a year getting to know the other programs, it was a pretty easy decision.
“I wanted to be a head coach. I’ve been a head coach at different levels, including high school for eight years.”
Sears was aware of the Cobras and the success that they enjoyed last season. Butte advanced to the Thorne Cup playoffs where they eventually lost to the runner-up Idaho Junior Steelheads.
The new Cobras coach said he will spend a great part of the summer trying to build a team that will be competitive against the other teams in the conference.
“I’ll be making lots of phone calls and lots of flipping rocks,” Sears said. “It’ll definitely be a lot of work. That’s the first step to build for that success.
“I’ve put my work in recruiting-wise. I feel like it was time for me and my family. I feel like I’m head-coach material. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”