By Jim den Hollander
For the past decade or more, the “Coop!” chants have echoed through local arenas, primarily the Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA).
Now the State of Hockey will become aware of the talented goaltender as he officially signed a contract with the Willmar Warhawks of the North American ‘3’ Hockey League.
After being the man to beat in goal for Polars and South-Central Cyclones teams as a youth hockey player, Cooper Oakes (‘03/Reedsburg) rewrote the RWD varsity Cheavers’ goaltending record book, playing 4,344 minutes in 89 games.
During that stretch Oakes kicked out 2,144 of 2,357 shots for a Goals Against Average of 2.50 and a Save Percentage of .910. He started his varsity career with a shutout in Wisconsin Rapids in the fall of 2018 and went on to add another 12 goose eggs over his varsity career.
Oakes plans to attend a few camps, including the Dells Ducks’ session June 17-19 in Aurora, IL, but he is locked in with the Warhawks for the upcoming hockey season.
Oakes made it official, signing with parents and RWD players and coaches at Therapy Without Walls in Reedsburg Sunday (May 29) afternoon.
In an interview (see video below) at the signing, Oakes said there were several teams in the mix, but the Warhawks became the obvious choice for him.
“I talked with Coach (Connor) White on the phone several different times now. He seems like a good guy, a great coach and it just seemed like the right fit,” summed up Oakes.
Coach White said he received a tip on Oakes which he confirmed by checking out some video.
“In this case, I did receive a tip on Cooper and right away felt like there was something there that could help the WarHawks be better both on and off the ice,” said the coach. “Video had later been exchanged and reviewing that video and then speaking to Cooper himself over some phone calls. That just confirmed everything that we had been told and I believed Cooper would bring from a performance, competitive, work ethic, and character standpoint. We are very excited to see Cooper compete in late August when we will begin.”
Along with those in attendance, a special video message from NHL Hall of Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr was shown as he personally wished Oakes luck on his next venture.
The Warhawks were one of six teams in the highly competitive NA3HL West Division. This past season the team finished third in regular season play with a record of 32-14-1. Willmar is a city of a little more than 20,000 population, west of the Twin Cities, about a 5-hour drive from Reedsburg.
Crossover games with the Midwest Division could see the team visiting Milwaukee, Chippewa Falls and possibly Oregon at some point in 2022-23.