Iowa Heartlanders announce affiliation with NHL’s Minnesota Wild

The Heartlanders will be affiliated with the Iowa Wild in Des Moines and the Minnesota Wild in Minneapolis as they start their season this October.


Jeff Sigmund

Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin speaks at a press conference at Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa. The Minnesota Wild announced its affiliation with the Iowa Heartlanders as its new ECHL team.

Chloe Peterson, Summer Sports Editor

The Iowa Heartlanders, Coralville’s new ECHL hockey team, announced the Minnesota Wild as their NHL affiliate at a press conference Thursday.

The new affiliation makes the Heartlanders the second team in Iowa within the Minnesota Wild minor league system. The Iowa Wild in Des Moines serve as Minnesota’s American Hockey League affiliate.

Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin said the ability to drive to the Wild’s two minor league teams was a large factor in choosing the Heartlanders in Coralville. 

The Wild’s former ECHL team was the Allen Americans in Allen, Texas.

“We won’t have to get on a plane to go see our players,” Guerin said. “… If we have a goalie down [in Coralville], our goalie coaches can make the ride from Des Moines over to here. We can make the ride from Minnesota down to here. It just gives us great flexibility in some places where we can put players and keep them.”

Heartlanders team president Brian McKenna said the close proximity between Coralville, Des Moines, and Minneapolis will be critical for player development and make it easy for players to move between teams in case of a call-up or an injury.

“If there was an injury in Des Moines at their morning skate or a player fell ill or something, they can call over here and in an hour-and-a-half, someone from here could be in Des Moines and they can play a game that night,” McKenna said.

The proximity also ensures that struggling athletes will still have playing time.

“We can make sure that guys are going either back and forth to Iowa, and just make sure that they’re continually playing,” Guerin said. “They’re not sitting out. If a guy’s not going to make the lineup up in [Des Moines] one night, we can send him down here to play three games in three nights and bring him back.”

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With the affiliation announced, the Heartlanders will start to build their team and coaching staff.

McKenna said the team already has contenders for the head coach position.

“We will make sure that [the Minnesota Wild] is in the loop when we make the hire,” McKenna said. “We want to make sure it’s someone that will fit with their philosophy. We’re in the process right now — we’ve narrowed it down to a short list of candidates. We’ll let [the Wild] have input on what they think will work best in their organization, and then we’ll want to make sure that our coach has a line of communication with both Minnesota and Des Moines in terms of the types of systems and structure that they’re playing as well.”

The Minnesota Wild will give the Heartlanders seven or eight players from its minor league system, and the Heartlanders will fill the rest of their roster with 12 to 13 athletes on ECHL contracts.

“People are going to be Heartlanders fans, and we hope that grows into the Iowa Wild and then the Minnesota Wild fans,” Guerin said. “Hopefully, people can make the drive up to Minneapolis-St. Paul, and watch us play.”

The Heartlanders open their season at Xtream Arena on Oct. 22 against the Kansas City Mavericks.

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