The 2019-2020 divisions have undergone realignment and reformatting. Of the biggest changes to note is the combination of the Mountain and Midwest Divisions. But this doesn’t mean the Ogden Mustangs and El Paso Rhinos are in the same division. This points to the second biggest change to note, the shifting of Ogden and Utah to the Northwest Division.The Western States Hockey League will have four divisions. The new look brings the Mountain/MW division to seven teams, making it the largest division. It also opens the door for an interesting narrative and the possibility of a new rivalry between the Pueblo Bulls, and Rhinos, who have a unique connection already: From Rhinos to Bulls.
The Provincial Division has added three new teams to the field. The Hinton Timberwolves and Cold Lake Hornets are fresh out of the gate and are replacing former teams from their respective cities. The Barrhead Bombers are the newest team/city to enter the mix while also boasting a familiar logo. They will be using a tweaked rendition of the old Long Beach Bomber logo. Returning from their inaugural seasons, the Edson Aeros and Meadow Lake Mustangs will see new competition but only need to adjust to one new barn in Barrhead. The Edson Aeros qualified for the 2019 Thorne Cup Semi-Finals in their first shot, effectively setting the standard for the division.
The Western Division has kept most of its teams intact. Having said that, the four time Western Division Champions, Long Beach Bombers underwent a management change and were renamed to the Jets. The Jets have ceased operations prior to the 2019-2020 season—leaving the monopolized title up for grabs. The Fresno Monsters no longer count on the services of Kevin Kaminski and named Trevor Karasiewicz as the new head coach. Justin Dyke stepped down from the head coaching position with the Valencia Flyers and the organization named Shane McColgan as the acting bench boss. The WSHL returns full-season to Sin City as the Las Vegas Thunderbirds join the fray. The T-Birds have been annexed to what seems like a very level playing field with no reigning champion and half the teams under new staff. The San Diego Sabers parted ways with former coach Chris Slater and brought in David Vychodil mid-last-season, who will return for 2019-2020. The avalanche will trek forward with the same system and are likely the only team that doesn’t have to deal with abrupt changes in personnel.
As for the Northwest Division, the first series between Ogden and Bellingham might be treated as a playoff series to determine who is the current top-dog of the division. The Blazers are the acting Northwest Division Champs, but, Ogden was also the Mountain Division Champion and qualified for the 2019 Thorne Cup Final Round. However, Bellingham is another team that needs to grow accustomed to a new head coach in Colton Teubert. Teubert was the 13th overall pick of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft but his more recent NHL games are with the Edmonton Oilers. Seattle might also have a word or two as their presence in the Northwest can not be taken lightly. The Totems were at the cusp of being NWD champions, last season, but let it slip in the division finals after a thrilling end to their regular season.
More details to come…