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Nationals to join AWHL for 2013-14 season Junior Hockey News

Published: Monday, 18 Feb 2013  

After a unanimous vote, the Glacier Nationals were accepted in the AWHL. The winter annual general meeting for the American West Hockey League was held in Billings, Mont., just before the winter annual general meeting of USA Hockey in mid January. It was attended by all members of the league and was a very positive outcome for a process that has taken more than two years to complete.

 "It has been a long road for us with many bumps, but we are very happy to be moving up to the AWHL," said Butch Kowalka, general manager for the Glacier Nationals. "We were actually accepted by the AWHL before this season, however USA Hockey denied our request to transfer. USA felt NORPAC could not exist without us. So even though it was a financial nightmare for our club, with no financial help at all, we had to endure the cost burden and push forward."

Push forward they did, with a 75 percent win rate in NORPAC, losing just four games out of 20 in regulation play.

"We have done very well against NORPAC opponents this season, and we hope that will continue in the playoffs."

The Nationals will combine their standings from both leagues for their points total, but will play any playoffs in the NORPAC league alone.

"It has been very difficult playing in two leagues this year," Kowalka said. "There is no continuity of process, rules are different, personnel are different and changing and communication is less than perfect. We still are having issues that haven't been figured out and it's February. I'm pretty sure we are the only team in the Juniors playing in two leagues, maybe ever. I never want to do this again."

If the positive tone of the AWHL is any sign, the Nationals never will have play in two leagues at once again.

"As president of the American West Hockey League, I can say that all of the current members are excited to welcome the Glacier Nationals to the AWHL next season," said Dwayne Dillenger. "This past year the Nationals played a split schedule between NORPAC and AWHL. Next year we welcome the exciting brand of hockey the Nationals will bring to our league."

The AWHL is excited indeed for next season; so much so that the AWHL annual general meeting will be held this summer right here in the Flathead.

 "We are overjoyed that the league would allow us to host in our first season," Kowalka said. "It will be a great chance for us to show off our valley and bring some good publicity about the league. This whole process with the AWHL has been very welcoming for some time now. I think we fit well into the development footprint of the league and they know that our team fits well into their standards of excellence as well."

That development footprint is something Kowalka said is very important to his players and team as a whole.

"You don't develop as a player sitting on a bus," he said. "You develop with practice and games. That's what the AWHL offers its players. More ice time with less travel time and a defined set of standards that are unique in Junior Hockey. The AWHL doesn't just say it, they prove it to the players and parents. Its that level of seriousness that we really like in the AWHL. We are a serious program and only want to be around other programs that feel the same way. It is all about developing the best players we can in hockey, academics and life."

It's not just Kowalka who feels strongly about player development, either.

"The AWHL is proud to have the Glacier Nationals join the league next season," said League Commissioner Mike Butters. "They fit well in our league footprint. The inclusion illustrates our focus on strong partners. Butch Kowalka and his staff are committed to our standard of excellence platform and we eagerly await their participation."

Visit the Glacier Nationals online at for more information about upcoming events and playoffs. Or check out their Facebook page for information and photos, and don't forget to "like" Montana's newest AWHL team.

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