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December 15, 2017 - TCO

TCO takes the ice with Minnesota Blue Ox hockey

Jay Witta knew what to do when friend and business partner Bruce Boudreau told him it was important that their Junior A’ hockey team, the Minnesota Blue Ox, had top-notch orthopedic and sports medicine care heading into their inaugural season.

Witta, Blue Ox head coach, general manager and co-owner with Boudreau, the coach of the Minnesota Wild; Boudreau’s wife, Crystal; and singer-entertainer Tim Mahoney, contacted Twin Cities Orthopedics.

“We have players coming to us from all over the world. Their parents are letting them come to us, and we haven’t met their parents. There’s a huge trust factor there,” Witta, a former college hockey player with more than 20 years of coaching experience, said. “During the recruiting process, the first thing we hear is, ‘What kind of medical care do you give to your players?’ ”

The Blue Ox roster boasts players from four countries – the U.S., Austria, Finland and Switzerland.

As the Official Sports Medicine Provider for the Blue Ox, one of the newest clubs playing in the United States Premier Hockey League, TCO athletic trainer Jason Ellenbecker helps keep the players at their best at practices and home games.

Ellenbecker also is the athletic trainer for the St. Paul Saints and previously worked with the Minnesota Vikings. He got his fair share working with hockey players, too, as the head athletic trainer at Hamline University.

“The kids love him; it’s one of those add-ons that we have that other teams don’t,” Witta said. “It gives us such great credibility as an organization.”

Jay Witta and Jason Ellenbecker
Minnesota Blue Ox coach/owner Jay Witta (left) and TCO athletic trainer Jason Ellenbecker

Ellenbecker’s duties include providing care for the Blue Ox’s opponents during games.

“You treat everybody equally, home and away,” Ellenbecker said. “When they’re here, you want to be a good host. And being a good host is part of being a good medical staff, so that’s the way we do it.”

Like players and coaches, Ellenbecker isn’t immune to pregame jitters in anticipation of the team’s upcoming matchups. He finds himself preparing for a game just as a player would get ready.

“It has been awesome having Jason here,” Witta said. “He’s part of the team.”

The Blue Ox, with a 22-1-2 record and the top spot in the Premier Midwest West Division, host the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings today and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Coon Rapids Ice Center. Witta attributes the team’s early success to the players and partners.

“Recruiting good-character kids on and off the ice is a big part of success in junior hockey,” said Witta, who began signing players in May. “The other is having great partners, and TCO is a big part of that.”

Watch a video of the Blue Ox in action: