Spooner Civic Center to Remain Open; Muskies Future Unclear

Thursday, March 8, 2018 | by Ben Dryden |

In the last week to 10 days, a flurry of rumors in the community has surrounded the Spooner Civic Center, the Wisconsin Muskies, and their Head Coach Dennis Canfield.  

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with former Assistant Coach and Assistant General Manager Doug Lein to help clear up the rumors.

It is important to note that there are two separate entities involved: Storage Rink, LLC (the Civic Center), and the Hockey Consulting Group, LLC (parent company of the Wisconsin Muskies). Doug was authorized to speak with us on the behalf of Storage Rink, LLC.

This is part one of our conversation; part two will be published at a later date.

“Yes,” Doug said when our first question was simply if the Spooner Civic Center is still open. “We will have ice in the arena until March 25, 2018, after the Figure Skating Show. Following that, we are looking at scheduling ‘dry events’ to hold in the arena.”

As many of you likely already know, there are a lot of rumors in the community around the uncertainty of the Spooner Civic Center’s long-term future. Doug said that he wants the community to know that they are “operating right now with a long-term plan to keep the Civic Center open and viable.”  

For how long, we asked? “There is nothing on the immediate horizon in terms of short-term plans. Everything is long-term viability of this facility.”

Doug said it is not Storage Rink LLC’s position, “nor is it mine as a member of the community, to make a claim of being open unless we truly believe that to be the case.”

Many of the rumors involved the Wisconsin Muskies and their current status, future plans, and how that impacts the Spooner Civic Center.

“Right now, that is up in the air, it is an unknown,” Doug said when we asked if the Wisconsin Muskies will ever play another home game at the Civic Center.

“Junior Hockey is something that is good for the Civic Center, for the town, and the community; it is great for all of the surrounding areas,” Doug said. However, “the Civic Center does not need the Wisconsin Muskies nor junior hockey, in general, to have its doors open. This facility will succeed by working with the community as a whole, with all the youth organizations.”

That doesn’t mean that the Muskies are officially gone, nor does that mean the possibility of a new junior hockey team is out of the question.  

“If Dennis (Canfield) and Beverly (Knoechel), as the owners of the Wisconsin Muskies, choose to move the Wisconsin Muskies elsewhere, that would open the door to the discussion of a new franchise here,” Doug added.

On the topic of the possibility of the Wisconsin Muskies moving to another facility, perhaps one in close proximity to Spooner, we asked Doug how that would impact the potential for another junior hockey team to come to Spooner. 

“It would be something that would be a discussion for the league,” he replied and added that the focus is to have “A junior team that is thriving and succeeding and has no interest in leaving. The goal is to have a team that wants to be here; that is community rooted and based.”

We noted to Doug that previously there hasn’t been a lot of transparency from those associated with the building located at 301 Walnut Street and its hockey team, but Doug said, “That will be changing going forward.

“It is easy to be transparent when there is positive direction and positive answers to be given.” 

Perhaps the biggest community rumor of them all is regarding Dennis Canfield. Doug said, to the best of his knowledge, Dennis is still the Head Coach and a part of the Wisconsin Muskies; however, his involvement in the Civic Center has come to an end.

Storage Rink, LLC’s position on Dennis is that he has been locked out of the facility and is legally not allowed to have any access to the facility nor will he have access moving forward. “There is a zero percent chance and no avenue for Dennis Canfield to be involved with anything in the Spooner Civic Center,” Doug added.

Doug was crystal clear when he stated to us that this is “very much a community center, regardless who owns it. It takes everybody to make it work. It takes an understanding of not how the community can serve the Civic Center, but how the Civic Center serves the community’s needs.”

What’s the feedback been so far from the community?” we asked. “In the last week to 10 days, the outpouring of calls and community members reaching out to offer and lend their support has been overwhelming,” Doug said.

“The Civic Center has a very bright future. We want the Center to be the jewel of Washburn County, and it will take the involvement of all the youth and community groups that utilize the Center to make that happen.”

We contacted Dennis Canfield seeking comment and he provided to us the following statement via text message: 

“The organization is going through some reconstruction. Right now all I can tell you is that the Muskies will be playing next season. It was a fantastic finish including making the playoffs to a season that started 0-7. I’m very proud of my players and I’m focused on getting my guys into college at this time. Thank you.”

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