USA Hockey's Expansion Review Board overturned the Junior Council's denial of the North American Hockey League's Wenatchee Wild application to join the British Columbia Hockey League on Thursday, paving the way for Washington state's only Tier II team to join the highly respected Canadian league.
The BCHL will have to re-approve Wenatchee's entry, but that is considered to be a formality.
Sources within USA Hockey cite the internal issues within the NAHL as the primary reason for overturning the Junior Council's initial decision.
"Mark Frankenfeld misled the council in regards to the number of potential new NA3HL teams he had to put on the west coast, he has even tried to strong-arm current North American Prospects Hockey League clubs into submitting the application," an anonymous member of the junior council said on Sunday. "I have to believe the Frankenfeld shot himself in the foot and overturning Wenatchee's denial is USA Hockey's way of telling Frankenfeld off. Now he better be able to produce those four teams."
The Wenatchee decision, combined with the assumption that the Alaska Avalanche will not be playing in 2012-2013, has forced other NAHL West Division teams into facing some hard realities. Both Dawson Creek and Fresno have yet to commit for next season as well.
Fresno is expected to request permission from the NAHL to place the franchise in dormancy while Dawson Creek is rumored to be looking at Junior B.
The Wenatchee Wild's NAHL franchise is expected to be sold to a group with plans to place the team in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. That group has been put together by a former minor professional player, Rick Boyd, a fixture in the Johnstown community as both a player for the ECHL Johnstown Chiefs and now as a youth hockey coach. Boyd's son, Cody, played this season with the Bismarck Bobcats. "I'm not getting involved with this process because of my kid, I am doing this because it makes sense for Johnstown," Boyd said in an earlier discussion. "This is a great hockey town, but the economics of minor professional hockey has forced markets like Johnstown, and now maybe even Wheeling, out of business."
Wenatchee's Bill Stewart was unavailable for comment on Sunday and should be making a statement on behalf of the organization this week.
NA3HL TO THE WEST COAST
Mark Frankenfeld's appeal of the Junior Council's denial of the NA3HL expansion to the West Coast was granted.
The committee decision to allow the NA3HL to expand to the west coast has left a lot of heads shaking. The closest NA3HL team to California is the North Iowa Bulls in Mason City, Iowa. What is Frankenfeld going to do, make those teams play each other eighteen times a year? That is assuming that he actually has the four teams. We are being told that he does not.
It is believed that the committee granted the NA3HL appeal to send a message to the Western States Hockey League in response to the league's decision to move their affiliation to the Amateur Athletic Union.
While the WSHL has formed working relationships with the Northern Pacific Hockey League, American West Hockey League and others in relation to roster integrity, the NA3HL has elected to make an aggressive move. NA3HL teams have even attempted to raid WSHL roster in order to fill their own roster spots.
The Wenatchee decision combined with the NA3HL expansion has left a sour taste in the mouth of Great Lakes Hockey League Commissioner Gary Lullove whose appeal was denied. The GLJHL's application for expansion to Sault Ste. Marie was earlier denied at the council level. "There is nothing within 200 miles of the Soo at the Tier III level. The Native Americans are not going to sit back and take this. They remember a lot of stuff that happened in the past," Lullove said on Sunday. "The council gets direction from USA Hockey and we do what we are supposed to do, only to get overturned by the committee."
We are suspecting that there is going to be a new GLJHL team in Sault Ste. Marie regardless of USA Hockey's decision. If USA Hockey elects to ban 16 year-olds from junior hockey we also expect that there is also going to be a lot less Tier III leagues for USA Hockey to worry about.
Personally, it would be very interesting to see the GLJHL simply merge with the WSHL. From California to Texas and Ohio to Idaho. With WSHL the expansion wheels already turning in Oklahoma and Kansas such a merger would create a lot of options for current NA3HL teams that are also tired of drinking Frankenfeld's Kool-Ade.
Other NAHL Concerns
The Chicago Hitmen saga continues this week with movement concerning the situation likely to take place on Wednesday. Fox Valley Ice Arena continues to tally up the ice bill and is banking on Frankenfeld's assurances that the league will make sure the bill is paid.
The Central Hockey League concluded the first round of meetings with the Professional Hockey Players Association without much progress.
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