This is the first in a four-part series, in which I'll take
a look at each of the four all-new divisions that make up the Western States
Hockey League. I'll explore the history of the division, the various teams, rivalries,
overall competition and even travel.
Going east to west, I'll begin with the Midwest Division.
Dallas Ice Jets (Grapevine, TX)
Dallas Snipers (Euless, TX)
Texas Jr. Brahmas (North Richland Hills, TX)
Tulsa Jr. Oilers (Tulsa, OK)
Wichita Jr. Thunder (Wichita, KS)
The Midwest Division has historically been one of the
toughest in the entire WSHL, in terms of competition. The teams that make up
the division have always been bunched very close together and the geographical
rivalries that spring from it, usually lead to a very physical style of hockey.
For the 2012-2013 season, the Midwest Division loses the
services of the El Paso Rhinos, who have absolutely dominated the division
since their inception into the league. This, of course, leaves the door open
for a new power to arise and assume the throne.
The New Mexico Renegades are also out, joining El Paso in a
move to the Mountain Division. They haven't been nearly as successful as the
Rhinos but New Mexico is fresh off of their first-ever playoff appearance and
will only continue to get better this season.
With two out, two completely new franchises slide into the
After a short one-season hiatus from the WSHL, Tulsa,
Oklahoma inserts another team into the league, as the Jr. Oilers are set to
join the Midwest Division in the fall. Joining them is the Wichita Jr. Thunder,
who are the first team from the state of Kansas to become a member of the WSHL.
As with most expansion teams, both Tulsa and Wichita will
have growing pains in their first season but both are being run by solid hockey
people and will have the benefit of playing under a parent Central Hockey
League franchise, which can never hurt the development of a program.
They will join the three holdovers, all from the Dallas-Fort
Worth metroplex; the Dallas Ice Jets, Dallas Snipers and Texas Jr. Brahmas.
The Snipers struggled mightily in their first season in the
league but had a couple of bright spots in forwards Arnie Osuna and Shane
Bonds, who both have junior eligibility remaining. If they can find a way to recruit
some talent away from the Ice Jets and Jr. Brahmas, the Snipers can easily
slide into a playoff spot.
Another expansion franchise in 2011-2012, the Dallas Ice
Jets were at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
Paul Taylor guided his boys to one of the more impressive
inaugural seasons in recent memory and made it all the way to the Thorne Cup
Championship game, before losing in overtime to the Idaho Jr. Steelheads.
They'll be ready to go again, especially with talent from
their Ice Jets Academy youth program ready to make the jump to junior hockey.
Lastly, the Texas Jr. Brahmas have always been a force in
the Midwest Division and I expect the upcoming season to be no exception.
They play a physical style of hockey and can score with just
about anyone. They don't seem to have a problem recruiting and are continually
one of the toughest teams to play against. They do have a few top players aging
out but they do a good job of bringing new guys in, especially import players.
With only five teams in the division, just one will miss the
post-season, a huge boost for the Snipers, Tulsa and Wichita.
It will be interesting to see how the two new squads
stack-up but with El Paso now gone, the division is definitely up for grabs.
Many fans have asked about El Paso's move from the Midwest
to the Mountain Division. The move makes them the only team from Texas not in
the Midwest Division and kills some rivalries. It also seems odd, in terms of
I thought the same exact thing, until I found out that the
trip from El Paso to Dallas takes nearly ten hours!
That means long cross-state bus rides at least three times
per season for Cory Herman and the Rhinos.
With two new teams needing a division to call home, it made
sense to move El Paso, who would be on the bus for trips to Wichita and Tulsa for
nearly 28 hours one-way.
So even though El Paso moving divisions affects a couple of
rivalries and leaves them as the only team from Texas not in the Midwest
Division, travel is now far easier on both the Rhinos and the Dallas-area
The three Texas teams left are all within a few minutes of
The Ice Jets play in Grapevine, the Snipers call Euless home
and the Jr. Brahmas play in North Richland Hills. All three towns are less than
a 20-minute drive from each other, making travel very nice (If not for the
constant construction traffic in the area.) You'll see a lot of one gamers or
home-at-home series between these three, which is good for the fans that
dislike three game sets.
The two new teams will face a little more travel, as Tulsa
is about a five-hour trip from the three Dallas-area teams and Wichita is
closer to six.
The newbies will travel a bit more than the rest of the
division but if your longest in-division trip is only six hours, I'd say you
have it pretty good.
As in every division, each team will play everyone in their
division a total of six times each, three at home and three on the road.
Since the Midwest Division only has five teams, each team
will then play three out of division away series and three out of division home
The travel outside of the division is unknown until the
schedule is released but odds are it won't be as leisurely as their
In all, the travel is going to be much better than last year
for the Midwest Division and although a few rivalries have ceased with the realignment,
new ones are sure to establish themselves as these five fight for the division
Story by Brent
Maranto, Director of Communications for the Western States Hockey League