Junior Hockey Team Eyes Return to Whitefish

Glacier Nationals hoping to relocate back to Whitefish where junior hockey program was founded

The owner of the Glacier Nationals junior hockey team would like to bring the club back to Whitefish where it started.

Butch Kowalka, a Flathead Valley resident, founded the Nationals in 2011 as a Tier III Junior-A expansion program in the Northern Pacific Hockey League. In 2014, the Whitefish Wolverines formed as a separate club and effectively forced the Nationals out of town. The Nationals signed a three-year contract with the Havre Youth Hockey Association.

Now, the Wolverines have disbanded and Kowalka would like to see the Nationals playing on their original home ice. Kowalka will meet with the Stumptown Ice Den board on Jan. 12 to discuss the pitch, which he says would benefit the local facility and community.

“We didn’t want to leave when we did. We want to move back and move forward,” Kowalka said.

In Havre, the hockey rink has averaged $20,000 a year in profits through the hockey team, Kowalka said, while players have contributed to community service projects and used the opportunity to move on to the college ranks. Games have averaged crowds of roughly 400 people per game in recent years, he said.

He said he has submitted a proposal to the Whitefish Ice Den to re-establish the junior hockey program where it started.

“Whitefish could really benefit from having a junior team,” said Kowalka, whose family still lives in the Flathead Valley while he commutes back and forth between Havre during the hockey season.

The Whitefish Sports Facilities Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit, manages Whitefish’s one and only ice rink, which is owned by the city.

  • dcfix

    I really hope that the Nationals can come back to Whitefish. I always had a good time and my kids absolutely loved going to the games!

    • Kathleen Paschke Johnson

      Go Natties!! The Flathead Valley benefits greatly and loses nothing if we bring our team home! Those boys used to come and work with students at our school – we need them back!

  • Hopeful fan

    It makes sense to bring the team back. It’ll help the community. It’s a great place for children and adults to spend time together. I hope the team is able to move back to the area. Not only will it be great to go to games, but the players will be positive role models not only for young players, but for all youth.

  • Jennifer Crowley

    Nothing to lose, everything to gain from having the Glacier Nationals back in NW MT. Young current and aspiring hockey players can benefit as well as businesses and communities in the Flathead Valley.

  • Carrie Burnham

    Bring the Glacier Nationals home! It is a positive youth and family program.

  • allywilliams05

    Yay! Bring those Glacier Nationals HOME!! Such a great program for NWMT families!!

  • Kelli Gust

    It makes perfect sense to bring the Glaciers
    back to their home ice, back to Whitefish where they belong.

  • Sheri Gentile McNamara

    Bring the Glaciers home!!! It sounds like a
    great program that benefits so many!

  • Sue Quade

    Such a great opportunity for the players, fans and community! Go Natties!

  • Mark F.

    Bring the natties back! I loved their games!

  • Natties Fan

    Would love to see the Natties brought back to the Flathead. Not only is it a positive for the players, team, and rink, it’s great for the community.

  • Roseann Herne

    The Flathead Valley is the place for the Glacier Nationals to be. The team has so much to offer to our community. Bring the Nattles Home!

  • Another Natties fan

    Bringing the Natties back makes sense for everyone involved!

  • J. Barone

    Sounds like they are a proven team who has endured through transitions and would be a benefit to the community. More opportunities for local kids and a local ice rink (economy) is supported……. seems like no brainer to me, let them back!

  • markfrush

    Class organization from top to bottom, a true asset to the community – bring em home!

  • Tiffany Kraft Simpach

    This would be such an amazing addition to our community! With winter being so long here and sports options limited I can see this going over so well, please bring them back!

  • Andi

    Would love to see the Nationals back where they belong! We loved taking our kids to cheer for the home team!