By Tori Wittenbrock
Associate Sports Editor
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Gamblers USHL team will make their return to the ice at their home opener on Saturday, Oct. 7, against the Dubuque Fighting Saints.
The team this season will see eight familiar faces in returning players from last season.
“Sometimes within the USHL, some drafted kids will roll out into college and we were fortunate enough that we’ve got some guys back,” said Gamblers Head Coach Mike Leone. “You’ve got to have talent, but you’ve also got to have the culture, identity and want to fight for this team.”
Although the Gamblers are faced with a significant task this season in terms of performance, Leone said he has no doubt in the group’s ability and drive.
“I’m really proud of this group. We made the foundation of what we want to be as a team, organization, and to make the city proud,” said Leone. “Obviously, Green Bay is a historic place for junior hockey and the last ten years it really wasn’t that. We want to bring that back, but it’s a lot of hard work from a lot of people.”
Leone also said that his dedication to the players goes far beyond what he expects of them on the ice.
“I think the biggest thing for us is that we want players to come here and get better so that we get calls back from their college coaches.”
The Gamblers will start off the season fourth overall in the Eastern Conference of the USHL with a record of 2-1-1.
Their first game of the season will be played against the Dubuque Fighting Saints on Friday, Oct. 6, at 7:05 p.m. before coming home to play them on Saturday, Oct. 7, at 6:05 p.m.
Although there are always unknowns with the start of a new season, the Gamblers coaching staff said that they have put together a promising squad.
“I look forward to seeing how the group evolves and comes together. No doubt we have a talented group but what wins championships are the groups that find a way to come together in a unique way,” said Gamblers Assistant Coach Mason Baptista. “It’s an awesome group so I’m excited to see how the team will look when everyone is firing at all cylinders. I suspect it’ll be quite a sight!”
Though Baptista was only hired into the assistant coaching position in late July, he said that his ties to Green Bay have him highly anticipating the start of the season.
“It’s kind of like a home town game for me. This will be my 13th year back here and I have spent more time here than anywhere else. I’ve built so many incredible relationships, met so many amazing hockey parents and have trained some of the most driven players here that I’m just happy to be around for them,” said Baptista. “I could never play in front of them, but now they can see me do what I truly love doing more than anything else in the world. It’ll be a fun night that’s for sure!”
Throughout the 2023 season, the Gamblers will host a variety of theme nights and promotions for home games to both encourage attendance and to give back to the Green Bay community by fostering support for the team.