Wayne Sheehan never envisioned becoming commissioner of Northern States Junior Hockey League - but he's excited to embark on a new adventure that will have him travelling up and down the East Coast during much of the hockey season.
Sheehan, who previously owned and coached the Kodiaks for more than 5 years, knew the league was looking to restructure its administration after the 2012-2013 season ended.
Now that Sheehan has a new role in the league, he has a big vision for what he would like to see it become.
"We want to raise the level of awareness and level of play in our league. We made a loud clear statement at the national championships this year that we can compete across the country and certainly on the East Coast," he said. "We want people to know we're stable, we want people to know who we are and that our footprint is solid with good, controlled growth with teams coming into the league."
Sheehan, who is used to administrative roles given his background as a police chief in Kensington, N.H., said he also intends to become a familiar face at games throughout the season.
"I have a strong understanding of budget and working with people who don't always get along sitting at a table together, I like to work to find strengths to find a middle road and bring people together. That's what we're going to do; we're going to grow the product and we're going be successful at moving kids to college hockey," said Sheehan.
But make no mistake about it, Sheehan is going to miss coaching a hockey team.
"It's a different level of passion, coaching versus being an administator for a whole league, but I also feel like this is the right time for me to move to a different level within hockey that's going to put to good use some of my talents as an administrator," he said. "My job is to work for the betterment of all the teams and I'm really excited about that, and trying to get us to the level where kids start thinking, 'I want to go play in the NSHL,' ... I want us to be where the kids are looking first."
Sheehan said the league - which is sanctioned by the Amateur Athletic Union - boasts affordable hockey, a unique culture and a "better import rule than USA Hockey," which allows NSHL to broaden its talent pool.
"I know first hand the chemistry in our locker room was amazing with the Kodiaks, we had players from Hungary, Russia, Norway, Sweden and Canada, and to watch those guys interact and come together with Americans was fantastic," he said.
Sheehan already has strong ties with many of those countries and would like to see even more international players in the NSHL, he said.
"We have 1,600 players across the country playing AAU Junior A hockey, Our name is growing and our brand will continue to grow and get stronger," he said.
In five years, Sheehan said his vision for Northern States includes 14-16 franchises and a reputation for developing players and moving them on to college hockey.
"In five years, I want us to be in direct compeition with strong leagues that are USA Hockey sanctioned on the East Coast. I want kids looking at us first as an option to help them go to college. And we're close. We're doing a
great job and helping kids get to the next level right now and we're just looking to get stronger and stronger."
Here is a look at some other changes happening around Northern States Junior Hockey League:
- The Maine Wild out of Biddeford, Maine, has joined the league.
- The Wilkes-Barre Miners have joined the league.
- The Trenton Habs have changed their name to the Jersey Shore Wildcats and will act as an affiliate team of the Wichita Falls Wildcats of the NAHL.
- The Lake George Fighting Spirit will move locations to Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, becoming the second junior franchise hosted by the Waterville Valley Ice Rink. They will go by the team name AHI Fighting Spirit. The other is the New England Wolves, who play an independent schedule.
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