The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced that its Board of Governors has approved the membership application for an NAHL team in Rochester, New York owned by Hockey ROCS, LLC, an entity owned and operated by Chris O’Donnell and Colleen Wegman.
The team will be known as the Rochester Jr. Americans and will compete in the East Division beginning in the 2023-24 season out of the Rochester Ice Center in Fairport, New York.
Chris O’Donnell is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of OAM Quant, an investment management company. Chris has in excess of 25 years of investment and entrepreneurial experience. Colleen Wegman is the Chief Executive Officer, President and Co-Owner of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. Wegmans is a grocery retailer operating 110 stores in seven states. Wegmans was ranked #3 on FORTUNE magazine’s 2022 list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Wegmans has been on the list every year since it began in 1998 and ranked #1 in 2005.
The O’Donnell’s are part owners of the Rochester Ice Center and are currently investing two million dollars into facility upgrades. The Ice Center sits on 26 acres and currently has two sheets of ice with the main sheet being able to accommodate over 1,000 fans complete with private boxes, party deck, restaurant, and bar viewing, with plans for a third sheet in future years. Upgrades include a new space for the NAHL team that includes locker room, video, lounge, training/recovery, coaches’ office, nutrition, and equipment room. The facility is also home to the Hockey Academy, Rochester Jr. Americans youth teams, and Bishop Kearney Selects.
“We are thrilled that the growth of the North American Hockey League is continuing in the East with our eighth team,” said NAHL Commissioner and President Mark Frankenfeld. “The East Division has grown, thrived, and succeeded because there are a lot of players in the region that want to play the quality hockey the NAHL represents in front of all the NCAA programs in the East. An NAHL team in Rochester continues to expand our mission of providing the best junior hockey that is available in the United States and more importantly, players will not have to move far from home to play in the NAHL. In addition, the combination of the facility, the market, the history, and the wonderful ownership group is second to none. We expect the Rochester Jr. Americans to be a successful and top-notch organization from Day 1.”
The Rochester Jr. Americans will be the eighth team in the NAHL’s East Division, which made its debut during the 2015-16 season. The East Division currently has seven teams, including: Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks (Danbury, CT), Johnstown Tomahawks (Johnstown, PA), Maine Nordiques (Lewiston, ME), Maryland Black Bears (Odenton, MD), New Jersey Titans (Middletown, NJ), Northeast Generals (Attleboro, MA), and Philadelphia Rebels (Sewell, NJ). In May of 2022, the New Jersey Titans became the first team from the NAHL’s East Division to win the Robertson Cup, which recognizes the NAHL’s Playoff Champion.
“After exploring many junior hockey opportunities, we are thrilled with our decision to partner with the NAHL in establishing this new team in Rochester, NY. Our personal focus on player development and advancement aligns perfectly with the NAHL’s mission. In fact, the NAHL had 350+ player commitments during the 2021-22 season. The NAHL has long-term, stable ownership groups that are aligned around this purpose-driven mission,” said O’Donnell. “We are very fortunate to have assembled an extraordinary team of hockey professionals who share the same mission and will lead operations. Collectively, they have had tremendous success at all levels of hockey as players and successfully transitioned those experiences in becoming outstanding coaching and player development professionals. They are:
Francois Methot, General Manager and Head Coach
Brian Gionta, Associate Head Coach
Nathan Paetsch, Player Development Consultant-Defensemen
Stephen Gionta, Player Development Consultant-Forwards
David Leggio, Goaltender Coach
Chris Collins, Scouting Consultant
Nate VanKouwenberg, Strength and Conditioning Coach
Dr. Russ Manalastas, Athletic Therapist