NAHL Expansion

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NAHL Expansion

For the last two weeks we have been examining the potential expansion of the USHL. The North American Hockey League has for the last few years expanded beyond what most in the industry believed was responsible or sustainable. Many have stated that the over all talent level in the NAHL is down because expansion has not been controlled. Tier III owners have been impacted in that the top level Tier III players are now making NAHL rosters, impacting their copetitive level and their income.

Midget hockey has been impacted through all of this as well. MAny have been complainging that Tier III has taken too many players from midget hockey. Clearly the the impact is a direct result of NAHL expansion. Because of this uncontrolled expansion, NAHL teams have taken more midget aged players, and along with taking the higher end Tier III players have forced Tier III teams into taking more midget aged players. Until recently Tier III has been taking the blame for this loss of midget players when the NAHL should share the blame at a minimum.

Expansion though is clearly on the horizon again for the NAHL. Last season a prominant Johnstown PA resident was set to bring the NAHL to town until financing fell through, it looks as though financing is no longer an issue. Strong rumors have Johnstown in the NAHL next season.

The loss of teams for the Central Hockey League also looks to continue. Rio Grande Valley and Laredo are once again very much in the mix for the NAHL. Arizona is also an option, but other NAHL events would likely just have them going dark.

Wenatchee has since its inception been rumored to join the British Columbia Hockey League or the Western Hockey League. It looks like this could be the year for them to make the move. Sources have them joining the BCHL, while there is still an outside chance for the WHL.

The New Mexico Mustangs look to be moving or closing up shop as well. One rumor has them being relocated to Johnstown. Expansion of the Western States Hockey League will definitely play into that decision, as the WSHL will be very aggressive under their AAU operation model.

New Mexico to Johnstown would make sense, Traverse City and Flint to Rio Grande or Laredo would also seem to make sense as well. Wenatchee moving would then be a wild card. Could another former Central Hockey League city be an opportunity, there are some very nice arenas available in the southern United States. Or is this an opportunity to place a team in the mid west to help teams like Traverse City,Kalamazoo, Flint, Port Huron, Chicago, and Jamestown? Attendance for these teams is embarassingly low, community support is no longer there for many of these locations, and for some has never been there.

If Traverse City and Flint are lost, Johnstown looks to make a lot of sense. Lewiston Maine, is not on the horizon for the NAHL. The ECHL and FHL are looking at the city, and it is too far outside of the NAHL travel footprint to make a team financially viable.

With the USHL looking at expansion in the mid west, one area would make sense for both leagues. Dayton Ohio. The Dayton Gems of the Central Hockey League will not survive beyond this season, at least not without a change in ownership. Although a fan base has grown in Dayton it is not enough to support a Central Hockey League team in an aging arena. The USHL would look to the Nutter Center, while the NAHL could place a team in Harrah Arena making a few upgrades. Dayton will also become a target city for any new or existing pro league. Hobart Arena in Troy Ohio is also available and could easily support an NAHL franchise with a few improvements.

All of these moves, expansion, and other information will come to light fairly quickly. USA Hockey winter meetings are in Orlando Florida January 12 through the 15th, 2012. This will be when those decisions will be made and it will not take long for the information to get out. New USAH rules limit times for affiliate offices to object and comment on junior expansion. Once expansion and relocation plans are approved, those teams will get right to work. Moving trucks will be seen in more than a few NAHL cities, while new cities prepare to unload those same trucks.

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