A private rink in Canada where Kansas City Mavericks forward Loren Ulett has skated in the past is now charging $600 an hour for practice time.
"I think it goes without saying that I won’t be skating at that rink," Ulett said by phone from his residence outside of Toronto after re-signing with the ECHL team this week. "All the public rinks are closed and the private rinks can charge whatever they want, but I can promise Mavericks fans that when I get back to Kansas City, I will be in great shape and ready to go."
Ulett is biking, running and hitting the gym on a regular basis as new Mavericks head coach Tad O’Had believes the power forward is a player he can build his young team around.
"We’re putting together a team fans can be proud of, on and off the ice," O’Had said, "and we are so excited that Loren is going to be a part of our team.
"He’s a big power forward who isn’t afraid to defend his teammates. He’s a team-first guy and a player I really began to pay attention to once I signed on with Kansas City."
Ulett, a 6-foot, 213-pound left wing, said all his conversations with the new head coach have been positive. He believes O’Had can help the Mavericks become a playoff contender after they finished last in the Mountain Division last year with a 24-32-4-1 record and 53 points, which led to the midseason firing of coach John-Scott Dickson.
"I don’t know what happened last year," Ulett said. "We just didn’t have consistency, and it wasn’t John-Scott’s fault, it just wasn’t working. I think things will change this year.
"I know some of the guys who are coming back – but I can’t reveal their names – and our fans are going to be excited. The Mavericks are a classy organization and Brent Thiessen (the team’s president and general manager) gives us everything we need to be successful."
Ulett hopes to look ahead and not to last year’s struggles, which ended early after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the end of the regular season and the entire playoffs and continues to wreak havoc on preseason preparations.
"It was a tough season and because of the pandemic, it just ended," Ulett said. "The offseason has been difficult because of the lack of time on the ice, and I’m getting tired of wearing a mask everywhere I go. But that’s how it is, and I’m going to abide by the rules.
"If this is the new normal, so be it. I’m just counting the days until I can get back to Kansas City and start playing hockey."
During this offseason, Thiessen and O’Had have been meticulously seeking out players who fit the Mavericks mold – strong on the ice and in the community.
"I know how much (assistant coach) Kohl (Schulz) thinks of Loren, and we all think that he is a very important piece to our puzzle this season," O’Had said. "And he knows the importance of his role in our community. That is so important to me, Brent and the entire organization."
In 55 games with the Mavericks last season, Ulett had 10 goals and eight assists. He finished with 83 penalty minutes and had a minus-11 plus-minus rating. He had eight points in 38 games with Kansas City in the 2018-19 season after coming up from the Birmingham Bulls of the A-level Southern Professional Hockey League.
"We like his path – from the SPHL," O’Had said. "He has earned his spot on our roster and is really going to be a fun player to coach and a fun player for our fans to watch."
Ulett said playing for an organization like the Mavericks is a "dream come true."
"There is no other team I would rather be with than the Mavericks," Ulett said. "I talk to guys on other teams who go out and play in front of 1,000 fans in a 20,000-seat arena. We have our place filled to capacity (5,800) almost every game.
"It’s a dream come true, and we want to reward our fans with a deep run into the playoffs and a championship. They deserve it and we’re going to do everything we can to make it happen this season."