Mustangs to leave WSHL for new Tier I CHL starting in ’17-18
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Beginning with the 2017-18 season, the Ogden Mustangs will leave the Tier II Western States Hockey League (WSHL) for a brand-new Tier I league, the Central One Hockey League (CHL).
The CHL, like the WSHL, will be under the auspices of the Amateur Athletic Union’s (AAU) United Hockey Union (UHU) and will begin next season with six franchises currently competing in the WSHL – the Casper (Wyo.) Coyotes, Colorado Jr. Eagles, El Paso (Tex.) Rhinos, Oklahoma City Blazers, Springfield (Ill.) Express and Mustangs.
For Mustangs coach-GM Jake Laime, he sees numerous positives to the new league.
“We always want to deliver a quality product to the fans and supporters in Ogden,” Laime said. “When you look at the hockey profession as a business, running a team is a lot more than the entertainment factor. The better the player, often times the more rewarding the experience. The skill sets and individual talent level will improve. The CHL is a free league, meaning it’s not tuition-based. Players do not have to pay. It will allow us to recruit a level of talent that is, and has been, frequently deterred from the tuition-based pay-to-play model.”
“The league needed to differentiate itself from the WSHL,” said Laime. “Canada has Tier I and Tier II junior, USA Hockey has Tier I (United States Hockey League) and Tier II (North American Hockey League) junior and now the UHU has Tier I and Tier II junior. We are not the USHL. Our goal is to keep the league small and competitive, focusing on quality rather than quantity. I’m sure we will all experience some growing pains and it’s a big venture, but we are very confident in our partners’ abilities. Will we see future NHL guys? Time will tell.”
At a recent CHL Board of Governors meeting in Las Vegas, the league operations manual and all other internal documentation that had been under review was approved and adopted. The most important topic of conversation surrounded the process of selecting the 2017-18 rosters for the CHL in which a two-phase draft system was adopted.
Phase I of the draft is exclusively for those athletes participating in an AAU-UHU sanctioned league in the 2016-17 season, while Phase II of the draft will be exclusively for those players attending league pre-draft events. If a player does not participate in a pre-draft event, they will not be eligible to be drafted.
All other players may be signed as free agents at the conclusion of the draft process.
In Ogden, there is talk that the Mustangs may potentially still operate a WSHL team on top of the CHL team.
“We are working through logistics regarding the second team,” Laime explained. “We experimented with it last season using the Western Prospects League as a small feeder system and feel that we are capable, but it will all come down to the product and staffing. We will have more news regarding both teams soon.”
Still a year away, Laime is chomping at the bit to see what the CHL will bring and explained why he thinks the CHL will be a hit.
“I think the CHL will be successful because we have a group of committed owners, coaches and general managers that have put in the time to learn the business and dedicated themselves to not only a quality venue and product, but also a quality standard that we can hold ourselves to,” Laime said. “With the no-pay model and the ability to attract top talent from around the world, we have an advantage over any other league in North America.”
— Matt Mackinder