Late announcements don’t always work out well for expansion teams. Approved in June, the NA3HL South consists of four teams. The Dallas Jr. Stars, McKinney Warriors, Sugar Land Imperials, and Topeka Capitals.
To start the team recruiting process at the end of June is to start way behind the rest of the country when looking at Tier III recruiting. Most teams begin the recruiting process in beginning of April, and that nearly three-month lead time advantage is usually the difference between having a full roster in September or not having a full roster.
The goal for the NA3HL South is to service the NAHL teams located in the Southern United States. No less than six NAHL teams are located in Texas alone! Another is located in Topeka Kansas, and these seven teams afford for these NA3HL teams to benefit from an increase level of NAHL scouting based on geography.
Last week, if you use the USA Hockey protected lists as a guide, all of these late expansion teams were certainly on shaky ground. But those protected lists certainly wont tell the same story when they come out this friday.
Last Friday the Dallas Jr. Stars reported 11 protected players, the McKinney Warriors reported 1 protected player, the Sugar Land Imperials reported 13 protected players, and the Topeka Capitals reported 14 protected players. None of these teams would have been able to compete last week.
What a difference a week makes!
This Friday the Dallas Jr. Stars will report approximately 18 protected players, some contracts are still trickling into the office.
McKinney Warriors will report approximately 8 players while waiting on contracts to be returned from European players. While 8 players may not look like much on the surface, when considering new Head Coach Aaron Corbiere has only been on the job for just over a week, it is definitely substantial progress.
Sugar Land Imperials should report approximately 18 players, and Topeka should also report around 18 players.
NA3HL rosters for these teams are being updated as soon as contracts are being turned in, and may be a little more accurate than the USA Hockey protected lists since they are only updated once a week.
While the numbers are not at optimum levels, all four teams are clearly making progress and all four teams expect to begin play at some point this month.
Information coming out of Texas and other states within the South West has the NA3HL and NAHL getting a lot of expansion interest within the existing footprint. The non-traditional hockey markets in the South West are clearly primed for more growth in coming seasons. The success exhibited by existing teams within the footprint can clearly be seen as a model for this future expansion.