CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU)- The Chippewa Steel is wrapping up their first full season in Western Wisconsin. The new franchise played their first game last September meaning their players have only been in town for a couple of months. But for this team, that's been more than enough time to become members of the Chippewa Falls community.
The Steel have been a competitive and fun team to watch this season; but their biggest win has come with the stands empty and their youngest fans by their side.
"Just to see the smiles on their faces makes it all worth it," said Hutson Collins, one of the players.
On their off-days these players have stayed busy.
"We go to the Boys & Girls club twice a week, and open skate,” Collins said.
On this day, Collins and his teammates are hosting 4 and 5 year-olds from St. Charles Early Childhood Center, part of the Macks system. An age group that captain Grant Reichenbacher says he enjoys working with.
"We were all at this point, just getting on the ice and learning to skate, so to give that back and help them learn how to skate is pretty cool," Reichenbacher said.
But it's not just on the ice; these guys have been making trips to the classroom too.
"The response and how welcoming the community has been to us, has been really special, so being able to give back is really awesome," Reichenbacher added.
And the gratitude goes both ways.
"They've been amazing,” said Jamie dodge, the director of early childhood, at the Early Childhood Center at St. Charles Borromeo School. “Really helpful, willing to try new things and carry them around, even though these kids have no experience once so ever."
Who knows, maybe their willingness to work with the area's youth will keep building on Western Wisconsin’s hockey tradition. Reichenbacher adding he thinks they might even have some future hockey players.
"Hopefully, I think so,” he said. “This part of the state is big into hockey so that's cool."
The Steel have just five home games remaining this season with two of them taking place Friday, March 8th and Saturday, March 9th.