GREEN BAY, Wis (WFRV)–For the first time since March, sports fans will be back in the Resch Center cheering on a local team. And for the Green Bay Gamblers, being back on the ice couldn’t come soon enough.

“Getting into training camp was such a great feeling. You could see it in the players, you could see it in the staff, and it just brought that excitement,” said head coach Pat Mikesch. “We had a weeklong intake testing protocol that you had to get through and then getting on the ice as just a little bit relieving, but a lot of excitement.”

The USHL is set to return this weekend with scrimmages, and even though everyone knows there is always the possibility of spreading COVID-19, all involved are confident with the system in place. 

“The testing protocol is set up through the league and through the NHL, so we’ve got great partners there to make sure we’re taking care of everything,” said Mikesch. “The players aren’t living in a bubble like the NHL was, so I call this a ‘cone.’ It’s got holes at both ends and we’ve just got to make sure that we’re safe, and keeping it out of the locker room and our guys have been great with the process so far.”

It’s a unique time for stadiums and arenas that would have normally been hosting both sporting events and concerts for the past seven month, but to perform in front of any crowd is a major victory. 

“This is the opening stage for the Resch, and I know they are extremely excited with all the safety protocol that’s in place,” said Mikesch. “We will allow 1,500 fans, and it’s a 9,000 seat venue so we’re not even trying to get to the 25% right now. They have everything set up for clean traffic into the building, out of the building, and it’s going to be a safe environment for people to come in and be able to enjoy a little bit of sports again.”

As far as the team Mikesch will field on the ice? It’s one that he’s confident can put the puck in the net on a regular basis and compete for a USHL championship.  

“In terms of hockey, it’s a great group of forwards. And we knew that we had that returning and we were able to add in another couple of pieces,” said Mikesch. “With Mason Lohrei our big NHL draft pick two weeks ago, having him back and probably being the top defenseman returning in the league, is a good place to start. We’ve got back some young guys that we need to develop as we go.  Right now we’ve got a great core that will be off to school next year, so it’s a fun group to work with.  They’ve been excited through camp but I know they can’t wait to play a real game.”

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