It looks like the
Northern Pacific Hockey League might have played the final game.
Ironically enough, the
last teams still playing in that game (in Cascade Cup Finals) have decided to
part ways with the NPHL. The Wenatchee Wolves will concentrate on the midget
level of play while the Bellingham Blazers are rumored to be following the
Southern Oregon Spartans and Seattle Totems over to the Amateur Athletic Union
sanctioned Western States Hockey League.
Bellingham hopes to
take advantage of AAU’s rostering guidelines that considers all North Americans
as domestic players. This gives the Blazers the opportunity to roster players
from nearby British Columbia with a lot more ease.
The league champion
team from Wenatchee dominated NPHL competition while remaining a low-to-middle
of the pack team at the 18u level of the North American Prospects Hockey League,
something that shed a lot of light on the league’s level of play.
A proposed merger with
the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League has been voted down by the Colorado
based league, according to a very reliable source within the RMJHL, leaving the
NPHL on the outside looking in.
The only option
remaining for the last four teams is the North American 3 Hockey League or
United States Premier Hockey League.
The NA3HL would love
the chance to put the brand onto the west coast but questions remain about the
viability of that move considering that some of the remaining NPHL operators have
less than desirable track records when it comes to meeting expectations.
The USPHL might be the
trick. But even then, the required participation in USPHL events may prove to
be cost prohibitive as well.
At least one of the
remaining four teams has already contacted the WSHL and it’s expected that one
other one will be doing the same thing this week. It’s been indicated that the
WSHL would be very interested in West Sound.
Considering all the
drama that has unfolded as a result of Eugene Generals’ General Manager Flint
Doungchak personal war with the WSHL, it’s very clear that the Generals won’t
be invited to the WSHL party as long as Dounchak remains part of the equation.
possibility that the now four-team league could lose one or two additional
teams to the WSHL, the situation with Dounchak’s strained relationship with the
AAU league could put Generals’ team owner Ken Evans into a difficult position. Does he stick with the only GM the team has
ever known and hope for a miracle? Or simply part ways with the employee and
open the door to a new league.
It’s my opinion that
Evans and the Generals have few options. The WSHL would make a lot of sense for
West Sound as well. Maybe a West Sound “merger” with the Seattle Ravens would
be a great idea to solidify that operation.
NPHL Commissioner Gary
Swain is in the toughest position of all, but he can’t at all be surprised.
Allowing a team to skate through an entire season with half a roster is ridicules
and likely cost Swain yet another job.
Let the bodies hit the
floor…silly season is in full effect.
Stephen Heisler has
spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Now semi-retired and working with
individual teams, coaches, and players as a consultant, he spends most of his
time in Florida with his family.
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