NAHL Throwback: Remembering The North Iowa Outlaws
Following the 1998-99 season, when the United States Hockey League (USHL) outgrew Mason City, Iowa, and the surrounding communities that make up the North Iowa region, the then-North Iowa Huskies packed up and headed for Cedar Rapids to become the Rough Riders.
That left the loyal and passionate fan base a six-year gap without a team for which to cheer.
In 2005 North Iowa would be awarded a North American Hockey League (NAHL) franchise, named the Outlaws, and the barn would be occupied once again by a Junior hockey team. The inaugural season was a lackluster one. The Outlaws under head coach Dave Boitz, finished the season with just 18 wins and 39 points which were nowhere near good enough to earn a playoff spot.
The record improved slightly over the next two seasons as the Outlaws qualified for the playoffs but suffered first-round exits each year. It wasn't until the 2008-09 season, under new head coach Jeff Crouse, that the Outlaws would win a playoff series. The Outlaws were also selected that season to host the Robertson Cup National Championship Tournament but the Outlaws were ousted in the second round.
The 2009-10 season would be the last one the Outlaws would play in Mason City. Following a dismal 15-37-3-3 season under their third head coach Garrett Strot, from and missing the playoffs, the team headed northeast to La Crosse, Wisc., and became the Coulee Region Chill.
Although the Outlaws left town in 2010 the great hockey fans of North Iowa would only have to wait one year before getting yet another Junior hockey team. This time the NA3HL would occupy the barn when the Bulls moved into town for the 2011-12 season.
One notable player from the Outlaws would be goaltender Scott Darling. A native of Newport News, Va., Darling played nine games for the Outlaws over two seasons and struggled to keep the puck out of the net. Darling would go on to have a stellar season with the Indiana Ice of the USHL in 2007-08 before moving on to play college hockey at the University of Maine. Darling was drafted in the 6th round (No. 153 overall) in the 2007 NHL draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. He played professional hockey in the SPHL, ECHL, AHL and played 126 games in the NHL for Chicago and Carolina over five seasons. He was most recently playing for HC Innsbruck in the EBEL.