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Missoula Jr. Bruins

MISSOULA — The Missoula Jr. Bruins are leaving.

Team co-owner Liz DiMatteo issued a statement to the Missoulian and 406mtsports.com on Thursday afternoon confirming the team will not operate in Zootown after this winter. The Jr. Bruins have one more regular-season home game left on Saturday and then will turn their sights toward the 2021 playoffs.

The Jr. Bruins are Missoula's only Junior A team and a member of the North American 3 Hockey League's Frontier Division. The play their home games at Glacier Ice Rink and have posted a record of 21-16 this season.

"It is with great sadness that we confirm the sale of the NA3HL franchise currently located in Missoula," DiMatteo offered. "This was a difficult decision stemming from ongoing challenges, including the rink management and the (Missoula Area Youth Hockey Association) board refusing to negotiate a renewed contract in good faith per our existing contract.

"We are hockey enthusiasts and hope that if another Junior team has an opportunity to operate at (Glacier Ice Rink), they will have a successful and fair working relationship. We sincerely appreciate the support our community has shown the Missoula Jr. Bruins."

With their departure from Missoula, it opens the door for the Jr. Bruins to set up in a different town. No plans have been confirmed as of Thursday.

The Jr. Bruins have been calling Missoula home for five years. Back in 2016, team owners Liz and Jason DiMatteo stepped forward to keep Junior A hockey alive in Zootown after the Missoula Maulers ceased to exist. 

"We want to thank Jason and Liz for having the team these last five years," said Ryan Yearous, president of the MAYHA board of directors. "The contract is up June 30 of this year. We wish the DiMatteos the best and the team and the franchise all the best in the future."

Yearous said he would like to see Junior hockey return to Missoula in the future.

"The MAYHA board is working and hoping to have a Junior team at Glacier Ice Rink and affiliated with MAYHA in the future," Yearous said. "There's nothing in the hopper right at this moment but it's something we're actively working on."

Bill Speltz is Missoulian Sports Editor and has served as Sunday columnist the past 15 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at bill.speltz@missoulian.com.

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