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Daily Dish: Silly Season Winter Edition - Junior Hockey News

Published: Tuesday, 7 Feb 2012
By: Stephen Heisler  |  Web site: JuniorHockey.com

Here we are, just seven days into February, and silly season is in full swing.

With legislative drama going on at USA Hockey, economic realities being faced by professional teams, and greed taking the steering wheel with every opportunity, the world of hockey has turned to the silly season very early this year.

At a time when play-off talk should be on top of the menu, we find ourselves staring at the hockey landscape with a dumbfounded look on our face.

From the National Hockey League in Phoenix to the east coast's International Junior Hockey League, everybody is braced for the fallout of what could be the greatest adjustment in United States hockey history. Our friends in Canada are also left wondering just how everything is going to shake out.

Like a line of dominos, let's start at the top and let the bones hit the floor.

National Hockey League

The Phoenix Coyotes are on the block and could be moved to Portland, Oregon. This would have an obvious effect on the Portland Winterhawks.

Jim Balsillie still wants to bring a team to Hamilton's Copps Coliseum. The dang Buffalo Sabres keep blocking Balsille's efforts but I feel that the Panthers could be leaving Florida in the very near future.

Kansas City's Sprint Center is a brand new facility without an anchor tenant.  The city was last used by Super Mario and the Penguins to get a new arena deal done in Pittsburgh.  I don't know, but the Kansas City Predators has a nice ring to it. Maybe Mr. Fisher can get his wife to buy the team.

American Hockey League

I think it is fair to say that the AHL's Oklahoma experiment has been a serious failure. Was it the loss of their biggest Central Hockey League rivals in Wichita and Tulsa or the NBA? Either way, what was once the jewel of minor professional hockey may turn into something else entirely? We are hearing rumors of a possible Edmonton Oilers partnership with the owners of the CHL's Ft Wayne Komets to bring the AHL to Indiana.


Wheeling is rumored to be in flux and may not return for the 2012-2013 season and a lot of balls are up in the air with a number of CHL teams looking at other options.

Central Hockey League

My suggestion is for the league to make a sustained effort to become the World's best junior league by operating with sanctioning provided by the Amateur Athletic Union. Ok, you can stop laughing now, so let's take a look at what it is going to take.

1)      Complete compliance with the NCAA to be able to give players a $100-$150 per week Per Diem for incidental expenses.  The Per Diem, combined with premium independent living, and a professional hockey atmosphere, will go a great distance towards the goal.

2)      International flavor to the league by recruiting heavily at World Juniors, in Canada, and here in the United States. Go right at the Hockey Canada and USA Hockey establishment with CHL Entry Camps in Las Vegas, Midwest, New England/NY, Toronto, and Vancouver.

3)      Build it and they will come. Maybe this starts out with six teams or twenty, but open up the party to any and all current professional or junior teams that can prove themselves to be viable candidates to join the league.

United States Hockey League

I don't see anything major this season aside from the Indiana Ice trying to find a temporary home.

North American Hockey League

I think Duane Lewis is sitting up to drop a hammer on the NAHL. Mark Frankenfeld put the hurt on the CHL in Texas and it now looks like Lewis is about to return the favor. The end result could see the NAHL down to just a handful of teams scattered from Fairbanks to New York. This could turn into one seriously far-flunged Tier III league before it is all said and done.

Tier III

Where do we start? How about in New England where Dan Esdale is in position to take his old job back while flexing the muscles of the Eastern Junior Hockey League's brand. Look for a power move where the EJHL expands their brand to the youth levels of play with AAU sanctioning. USA Hockey will not take such a move lightly but the Empire and Eastern States Hockey League will follow the lead of the big brother EJHL.

Meanwhile, the Great Lakes Junior Hockey League lost their appeal to place a team in Sault Ste. Marie and is telling folks that there will be a new team in town with, or without, USA Hockey's approval. We are taking that as a sign that the AAU banner will soon be flying over the GLJHL as well.

 Minnesota is not going anywhere and could find themselves as the only league doing battle with the NA3HL.

Out west, the American West Hockey League and NORPAC are currently dancing with AAU's Western States Hockey League in regards to territory rights and player protections. A pair of NORPAC teams even participated in the WSHL Shootout in Las Vegas before Christmas. Does this mean that there could be a merger or expansion of AAU to the Northern Rockies and Pacific northwest? This entirely depends on pending USA Hockey legislation in regards to 16 year-olds eligibility to play on junior rosters.

The Western States Hockey League is making a few big plans of their own. Look for aggressive expansion north of Texas and possibly east towards Missouri. Could we see a new Midwest Division of the WSHL?

How will it all shake out? What do you think?


posted Feb. 7th, 2012 - 10:25am
David Tormaschy says:
If AAU, would set up a CHL type model and have 4 Top Junior Leagues: WSHL, CHL, AWHL, and EJHL. These 4 leagues champions would play for a national title. Possible, who knows. Dreaming, YES!

posted Feb. 7th, 2012 - 2:23pm
stephen heisler says:
The Central Hockey League would play at the Tier I level where players actually get a small per diem while playing

while the WSHL and others are pay-to-play.

posted Feb. 7th, 2012 - 4:00pm
Janet Smith says:
The EJHL announced on their web page that they are forming their own u16 league next season, presumably to be in compliance with USA Hockey's desire to keep u16s out of Juniors and to develop their own talent. "The new league will follow the High Performance Club Criteria developed by USA Hockey in accordance with the American Development Model. Our programs will be affordable and promote development on the ice as well as in the community and the class room." Surely this means they will not be jumping over to AAU this coming season or are you thinking things are from sorted?

posted Feb. 7th, 2012 - 4:17pm
JuniorHockey says:
The EJHL has organized the u16's and will follow the Performance Club Criteria... what it does not say is that the local affilates is going along with the plan. We are certain that the youth associations are less than happy that the EJHL is going to leverage the brand into a new youth level program.

posted Feb. 8th, 2012 - 12:02pm
Zachary Ryan Johnson says:
Just a week or two ago the Edmonton Journal posted that the Oilers are looking to affiliate with an ECHL club that is preferrably near OKC, so I think you might be assuming much here.

OKC is a non hockey market (Blazers gave away a lot of tickets). They sat out a goal of a 4,000 avg. last season, and finished with 4,100. Probably more paid attendance than the Blazers since they gave away around half their tickts. So with that being said, I have a hard time believing the Oilers are already finding OKC a failure. All signs still point to the fact that they are still pleased with OKC as the affiliate. They knew building a fan base here in Oklahoma would take time, so after a year and a half I question whether your source is truly credible.

posted Feb. 8th, 2012 - 12:54pm
stephen heisler says:
Source has always been dead-on... no reason to doubt that the rumors are flying. Ft Wayne is exploring ALL options, as they should.

posted Feb. 8th, 2012 - 2:03pm
Zachary Ryan Johnson says:
Who is the source, or let me guess you're not at peace to say? Ft. Wayne will be in the ECHL, like all signs are pointing IMO. Until I see this come from a proven credible source, because coming from a blogger who doesn't even cover professional hockey this doesn't hold much water.

posted Feb. 8th, 2012 - 2:27pm
stephen heisler says:
OK, thanks for visiting.

posted Feb. 8th, 2012 - 4:26pm
Zachary Ryan Johnson says:
It's also amusing that even people in Fort Wayne are laughing at this.

Here's an interesting quote, sounds like you're sources aren't always dead-on, because some posts I've read have said...

"Keep in mind Stephen Heisler is the same guy who tried to run an over 20 "junior" league team in Texarkana that tried poorly to use overagers for one failed season."

Then the next one, from the Journal Gazette out of Fort wayne...

If Heisler said the sky was blue, I'd look up just to make sure it wasn't red."

posted Feb. 8th, 2012 - 5:21pm
stephen heisler says:
"Keep in mind Stephen Heisler is the same guy who tried to run an over 20 "junior" league team in Texarkana that tried poorly to use overagers for one failed season."

Really, news to me. I do remember the Texarkana Bandits going all the way to the USA Hockey Adult Open Championship game. The same level of play that the ECHL Alaska Aces came from.

1.1 million viewers in 2011 means that I am doing something right.

If you want to believe the Ft Fun owner, so be it, but what kind of owner would not be exploring ALL the options? Especially one with a franchise like Ft Wayne?

posted Feb. 8th, 2012 - 9:46pm
Bill Hill says:
I wouldn't worry too much about the schmuck running that blog in Fort Wayne. He is a piss spinner of the worst kind and revels in creating controversy that he can play in.

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