Minnesota Wind Chill: Pro Ultimate team plans event around rivalry match in St. Paul

·5 min read

Frisbees zip through the air as the Minnesota Wind Chill, Minnesota’s professional men’s ultimate Frisbee team, warms up before a recent practice. The sky grows gray with the possibility of rain, but this is the Wind Chill’s only practice of the week, so they need to make the best of it.

There’s a big home game against the Chicago Union, the team’s major rival, coming up. That game, scheduled for Saturday at Concordia University’s Sea Foam Stadium, will feature music by a local School of Rock franchise and the suicide awareness group Shout Out Loud, as well as balloon art by the Amazing Scott, among other attractions for the fans.

The Wind Chill hope to raise their profile as a competitive sports team within the American Ultimate Disc League, where they’re in their ninth season, while still keeping the mood entertaining and kid-friendly. The Wind Chill, one of 25 teams in the league, would be the leading force in the league’s Central Division, if they could just top Chicago.

Given a few key losses to the Union last season and at the outset of this season, that’s a big if. Still, they qualified for the playoffs last season, and their record this year is 7-2.

They’re almost there — almost.

Ultimate, originally known as ultimate Frisbee, is a non-contact team game played by players with a flying disc. The term Frisbee is a registered trademark, and so the sport is not formally called “ultimate Frisbee.” Points are scored by passing the flying disc to a teammate in the opposing end zone.

Practice begins at 6 p.m. — after normal working hours. They may be professional athletes, but this isn’t a full-time gig. In fact, just the opposite.

Head coach, general manager and co-owner Ben Feldman owns an insurance agency as his main job while he coaches in the evenings and weekends.

“I would still call it a side hustle or a second job,” Feldman said.

PROFESSIONAL SPONSORSHIPS

Still, players show up to practice and games eager to prove themselves. And some stick around for years.

Brandon Matis, a defensive cutter from Plymouth who works in computer security, has been with the team since its inaugural season in 2013, and he has seen it grow from a “ragtag” bunch to a professional team.

“It’s just very, very different,” Matis said. Now the team has financial sponsors who help cover the costs of travel.

“The benefit is that we’re still playing at a high level in front of fans and T.V. and with our friends and everything, but instead of paying three to five grand a summer to play, we’re getting a small stipend,” Matis said.

The Wind Chill’s title sponsor is The Surly Brewing Company, which was founded and owned by the Wind Chill’s majority owner Omar Ansari. The growing sponsorships and fan base allow the Wind Chill to do more in the community. In addition to the musical acts, both of which are youth-oriented fundraisers, they’ll offer ticket discounts, food trucks and more at the home game against the Chicago Union.

“I think we have a special platform being that we’re like a business rather than a club team,” Matis said. “We do have some kind of sponsor dollars and things to pull from so we’ve tried to give back to the community in as many ways as we can.”

The Wind Chill will be donating $1 of all ticket sales to Shout Out Loud, a suicide prevention initiative. Half of all ticket sales from School of Rock families will be donated to Shout Out Loud.

“It’s important to us as an organization, and it’s also one great way for us to meet and interact with other groups and meet new people,” Feldman said. “So if we can be helping and financially raising money for these great missions and organizations in that process, it’s a win-win.”

TOPS IN THE MIDWEST

Last month, the Wind Chill won two away games — one against the Detroit Mechanix, and the other against the Chicago Union. Last season, the Wind Chill lost to the Union in the division final. They also lost to the Union in the first game of the 2022 season.

“I think it’s a good mental boost for the team to know that you can overcome that challenge,” Feldman said.

Energy going into Saturday’s home game is high, he said. Made up of a mix of veteran players and rookies, the Wind Chill is hoping to beat the Union again.

Paul Krenink, a cutter from Edina who goes by PK, has really enjoyed his first season as a full player while also being a full time student at the University of Minnesota. Having tried out in 2020 at the age of 17, PK was a practice player for the past two years. Now he has the chance to compete with people who have been playing professionally since he was in middle school.

“The amount of leadership and wisdom they’ve been able to share with the younger guys has been invaluable for me, personally,” PK said.

However, it’s not just the veterans who are helping out new players.

“It’s like everybody helps everybody,” Matis said. “I feel like there’s always something I can learn from somebody even though I’ve been on the team for this long.”

MINNESOTA WIND CHILL VS CHICAGO UNION

  • WHO: The Minnesota Wind Chill, a men’s professional ultimate frisbee team

  • WHAT: Home game against the Chicago Union

  • WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday

  • WHERE: Sea Foam Stadium, 281 Hamline Ave N St Paul, or watch on TV on the Fox Sports 2 (FS2) channel

  • HOW: Buy tickets at shop.windchillultimate.com; $12 for adults, $5 for kids 11 – 18, children under 10 are free

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