Their have been several reports over the last couple of weeks that both of the top 2 Junior Leagues in the United States, the United States Hockey League (USHL) & the North American Hockey League (NAHL) are close to coming out with their divisional alignment. This should be remembered when we start the season this fall.
I will provide these divisions again when they are confirmed to make sure that any changes will be reported and expected changes to the playoff format in both leagues.
United States Hockey League
The United States Hockey League (USHL) & the North American Hockey League (NAHL) have both had expansion and a little bit of moving around the last few months as the USHL will be adding two new teams in both Muskegon, Michigan and Dubuque, Iowa as the league will be going from 14 to 16 teams.
It's also all be confirmed in an email I sent to the league office that the league will go to 3 divisions as they will be divided into East, Central & West Divisions with 2 5 team divisions and 1 6 team division.
Right now, the league is currently discussing how to alter the playoff format to meet the new divisional alignment. I have faith in the league that they will not fall under the pressure of nearly every other Junior League In North America to extend the playoffs more then what they have as they seem to be the one league in North America that gets it right nearly every single time to keep the number of playoff teams low when the post season gets going in the spring next season.
According to the reports, the East & Central Divisions will have 5 teams while the West would have 6.
2010-2011 Projected USHL Divisional Alignment
Muskegon Lumberjacks (Expansion)
Cedar Rapids Roughriders
Des Moines Buccaneers
Dubuque Fighting Saints (Expansion)
Green Bay Gamblers (Defending USHL Champions)
Sioux Falls Stampede
Sioux City Musketeers
North American Hockey League
What a crazy few months it's been for the North American Hockey League. First 6 new teams are expected to start playing including 3 Southwest Based Teams. Be sure to write something down because there has been a lot of moving and shaking recently as we have 6 new teams and 4 that are moving to new cities.
All 3 newly created Southwest Teams will be replacing teams in the Central Hockey League over the last couple of years that. First in New Mexico, it's the New Mexico Mustangs as the NAHL returns to the Land of Enchantment for the first time since 2007 when the Santa Fe Roadrunners left the state in 2007.
2 new Texas teams are coming to Amarillo & Corpus Christi. The Amarillo team hasn't been named yet, but it came from the Amarillo Gorillas ceasing operations a few weeks ago and the Albert Lea Thunder who had nothing but problems because of their corrupt owner who was running a "Pay-to-Play" Scandal that came out back in November.
He was later forced to give up control and the league took it over for the rest of the season. As for the team name, they currently holding a contest for fans to name the team.
As for Corpus Christi, they are simply switching leagues as this was a big secret for several weeks before that team GM Pat Dunn announced that they were switching leagues after being in the Central Hockey League just before Memorial Day. The Corpus Christi Icerays will be keeping their name and logo.
As for the rest of the league, 3 new teams in Fresno, California called the Fresno Monsters, the Dawson Creek Rage in Dawson Creek B.C. and the Aberdeen Wings in South Dakota are all going to make their junior hockey debuts in 2010-2011. As for teams moving, the North Iowa Outlaws are now the Coulee Region Chill in Onalaska, Wisconsin and the Marquette Rangers are moving in-state to Flint to become the Michigan Warriors.
The league is reportly going to keep it's 4 division structure with the elimination of the Central Division and the creation of the East Division.
For fans in the Southwest, the biggest changes you will want to keep track of are the St. Louis Bandits & Springfield Jr. Blues who have been South Division Regulars in recent years are moving East.
Just like the USHL, I will report the Confirmed Divisions in case theirs any changes and look for a possible new playoff format as well.
North American Hockey League
Bismarck Bobcats (Defending NAHL Champions)
Aberdeen Wings (Expansion)
Austin Bruins (Expansion)
Coulee Region Chill (Moved from the North Iowa Outlaws)
Michigan Warriors (Moved from the Marquette Rangers)
Motor City Metal Jackets
Traverse City North Stars
Chicago Hitmen (Expansion)
St. Louis Bandits
Springfield Jr. Blues
Amarillo (Team name TBD) (Moved from the Albert Lea Thunder)
New Mexico Mustangs (Expansion)
Wichita Falls Wildcats
Corpus Christi Icerays (Moved from the Central Hockey League & the Alpena Ice Diggers)
Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Kenai River Brown Bears
Dawson Creek Rage (Expansion)
Fresno Monsters (Expansion)
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