HELENA — This weekend the Helena Bighorns are hosting their exposure camp that will give fans and coaches a peek into what's to come in the 2022-23 season.
“For us, the coaching staff and the owners it's to evaluate all the new new players that we've got in and obviously the returning players that are that are coming back for next season. For the players, it's an opportunity for them to get seen not only by, you know, the Helena Bighorns. But there are some tier two teams, which is the next level of junior here as well throughout the weekend,” head coach Scott Cunningham said.
With the success of last season’s team in the rear-view mirror, this team has big skates to fill.
“I think, obviously, we're going to be a lot younger," Cunningham said. "They were pretty old last year, but the same mentality that I'm sure they had last year, we're here to win, and we're here to win a championship. But we're also here to develop our players and move them on to the next level. and, and for the older guys, the 20-year-olds, if that's college level, then so be it. If it's, you know, for the younger junior players, if it's the next level of junior, you know, next year or even the year after that, then that's the plan.”
Cunningham was with the Bighorns from 2004-2014 and collected a record of 466-97-6 with nine trips to the USA Hockey National Tournament. He also coached the 2010-11 Bighorns to a national championship while coach Damon Hanson played under him. Now, they're learning to work together in a different dynamic.
“I don't know if I would say that he's that hard-nosed coach yet. I think he has it in him for sure," Cunningham said. "Because as a player, he was a highly skilled player, but he was kind of, you know, he had some grit to his game as well. I think he can bring that into his coaching style. I think he, you know, as a player, he is a forward, more offensive. I think he's going to do a good job with that, but as far as him and me working together, I think we'll be good together. You know, I'm always learning and so is he, so I think we’ll mesh well.”
Speaking of dynamics that have changed, since the ownership of the team has shifted and Mike Greene and Jed Snyder have taken over, the fan base and the barn have gotten bigger and louder. For this upcoming season, they’ve added new lights and speakers.
“It's gonna be awesome. I'm so excited," Cunningham said. "Last season, I came. I think I was here for three home games. and I was blown away, not only at the crowd size, but the excitement that was here and stuff. And I hadn't seen that. I haven't seen the crowd size or even the excitement in this building for, you know, probably 10 years at least. So it'll be awesome.”