Change is all around this spring in Isanti. After four seasons playing out of Isanti Ice Arena the team has a new identity (Rum River Mallards are now Isanti Outlaws).
Now, after finishing in seventh place in the USPHL Midwest West for two straight seasons, the Outlaws have hired a new bench boss in Don Babineau.
Coach Babineau has been involved in Junior hockey since age 17. As a player he helped his team, the Minnesota Owls, to multiple national championship tournament appearances, a feat he repeated as a bench coach in the old Minnesota Junior Hockey League.
At the age of 21 Babineau took his first head coaching position with the Northwest Wisconsin Knights leading the team to a 30-win season. Babineau was honored at seasons end by being named MNJHL Coach of the Year.
Babineau also had stints with the St. Paul Lakers, Hudson Crusaders and Maple Grove Energy before the league disbanded.
“I’m excited to get the season started,” said Babineau. “It’s been over seven years since I was able to coach junior hockey close to home in Minnesota, and I’m looking forward to being in a very competitive West Midwest division.”
Asked about being involved in one of the top divisions of the USPHL Babineau commented, “You couldn’t ask for more of a competitive division. From my perspective this helps in many areas. We have the least amount of travel in the country which aids in the focus on other important factors such as school, work, billet families, and community support.”
He would return to the upper midwest to lead the Coulee Region Chill in 2019-20 then the expansion Oregon Tradesmen in 2020-21 where he guided the first-year club to a fourth place finish and playoff spot despite playing on the road for the first four and a half months of the season due to COVID-19 shutdown of their home rink.
After attending the NCDC Combine in Chicago last weekend Babineau will turn his attention back home, building the Outlaws in Isanti.
“We are looking to build a well oiled machine here. We have all the tools in place to get to where we want to go for years to come. There has been a junior team here for several years and we want to keep the great support from the community. We definitely feel we will have the biggest impact in regards to community service and giving back to the local communities in the surrounding area. The most successful teams I have ever been a part of have been out in the community on a weekly basis. We want to strive in this area.”