Despite reports from less credible sources, the USA Central Hockey League is moving along nicely and set to start their season in October. For the folks that feel that the Death Angel, or posers on HFBoards, are the authority on all things junior hockey, just go ahead click over to either of those sites now.
I’ve always been a supporter of free to play junior hockey. That’s the United States Hockey League, North American Hockey League, and seven of the ten leagues that make up the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
With that said, I came out very hard against the United States Premier Hockey League’s NCDC last season (and now) because of the insanely one-sided player agreements that radically restrict a player’s right to simply walk away, if the experience was less than what was hoped for.
Yes, I feel that THE monkey running that nickel plated free-to-play league is the game’s biggest con artist. Let’s face it, getting every pay-to-play player under the brand to pay for the NCDC is hockey’s answer to an illegal pyramid scheme.
The people behind the USA Central Hockey League know exactly what they are doing. The league’s decision to play with the National Hockey League rulebook was brilliant. The choice to only roster players born 1998-2000 will also go down in history and one of the best moves as well. Those selections help to eliminate some of the negatives the level of play has experienced in the south to date. The truth be told, USA Hockey’s decision to bring the hammer down on fighting has had a dramatic effect on the fan experience, and ultimately, the growth of junior hockey in the south.
The USACHL’s start-up model is unique and will allow the league to force parity. That’s another smart move because who wants to go to any sporting event and know what the outcome is going to be before getting into the door?
Former British Columbia Hockey League team owner Bill Davidson has teamed up with former Central Hockey League president Rick Kozuback to take a completely different approach to starting a league.
Job one was getting guys like Troy Mick (former president and GM of Salmon Arm BCHL) to serve as the league president and Terry Christensen (Vice President & Director of Hockey Operations), gave the upstart league even more credibility.
Misko Antisin was the league’s first coaching hire when he was announced as the bench boss for the Wichita Falls Force. Antisin, a longtime friend of Mick, was able to turn the BCHL Silverbacks around on a dime a few years back and is one of the game’s best developers of talent. Most of Antisin’s playing career was spent in Switzerland. His 18-year professional playing career began after signing with the Boston Bruins which he participated in two training camps in 1984 & 1985.
John Ollson was announced as the head coach of the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees earlier this month. Ollson is a former professional hockey player and has over 35 years of hockey experience. He is well known throughout Canada, for being not only one of the best teachers and hockey innovators, but also as someone who can truly make a difference in the community. His over 35 years in the game is testament to his success. He formally played with the OHL Ottawa 67’s, within the NHL Chicago Blackhawks organization, and the Canadian National Hockey Team.
Wayne Smith is coaching the Laredo Bucks after a career with two NHL teams and his name etched on the Stanley Cup as part of the Boston Bruins’ staff. Look for his team to be stuffed with international players as Smith utilizes his hockey contacts all over the world.
Ryan Egan may be the first coach of the Texas Lawmen, but he is no stranger to the great state of Texas. Egan was previously the Head Coach of the San Antonio Diablos Junior A Hockey Club of the Western States Hockey League where he compiled a 65-34-5 record. Egan spent five years as the Assistant Coach at NCAA Division III Saint Mary’s University before moving to Wisconsin to coach the LaCrosse Freeze of the North American 3 Hockey League. Success with the NA3HL club convinced owner Michelle Bryant to give Egan the bench boss job of the NAHL’s Coulee Region Chill. The NAHL team was sold during the off-season and moved to Chippewa Falls, leaving Egan available for the USACHL.
I also like the very optimistic outlook for the league. With such a dynamic foundation, I can see a rapid move to the east and north as existing professional team owners look to stay in the game with a business model that makes amazing financial sense.
Will those teams come from the ECHL, Southern Pro Hockey League, or Federal Hockey League? Likely all the above and more. Dark markets like Memphis, Tupelo, San Angelo, Little Rock, Lake Charles, and Beaumont have been in on the discussions. Don’t forget western markets like Prescott, Albuquerque, Ogden, and even Southern California down the road either.
As for now, the upstart league gives NAHL and CJHL bubble players a much less restrictive option than the USPHL’s NCDC. The lure of thousands of fans, year-round golf, Texas hospitality, and South Padre Island sure beats the heck out of playing in front of dozens during a nor’easter filled winter in New England.