By Paul Wayvon
Choices in Junior Hockey sometimes appear complex. Following are some details to help explain the choices and structure that the Peoria Mustangs have chosen for the benefit of its players, parents, coaches, referees and fans.
The Peoria Mustangs are proud members of the NA3HL, a top Tier III Hockey league in the USA. And, along with the other 46 teams in the NA3HL, we are fully sanctioned by USA Hockey, the governing body for the sport of hockey in the USA. There are five USA Hockey sanctioned Junior Hockey Leagues in the USA: North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL – Tier III), United States Hockey League (USHL – Tier I), North American Hockey League (NAHL – Tier II and affiliated with the NA3HL), Eastern Hockey League (EHL – Tier III) and Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League (RMJHL – Tier III).
The Peoria Mustangs have chosen to follow this direction as we consider it to be the most stable, supported and sustainable structure for Junior Hockey in the USA for the short- and long-term benefits of its players, parents, coaches, referees and parents. The Mustangs will be starting its 18th season next month, and it has been a member of USA Hockey since its inception.
If you have sensed some changes in Junior Hockey over the past while, you are correct. The Junior Hockey landscape has undergone some significant changes recently. The Tier III USPHL Junior Hockey League has left USA Hockey to become an independent hockey league due to its choice to not abide by USA Hockey rules. To make its league appear more attractive, the USPHL has renamed its top division the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC), formerly the USPHL Premier Division. And, the NCDC has further differentiated itself by announcing that it will be a “free” or tuition-free league for its players similar to the Tier II NAHL. Unfortunately, as we all know, nothing is “free”; in fact the USPHL’s NCDC will be funding its “top” 11 NCDC teams by charging more from its USPHL Premier and Elite Junior division players (and possibly its U16 and U18 teams?). Therefore, USPHL Premiere and Elite Junior Hockey parents will not only be paying for their own child’s hockey development and experience, but they will also be paying for someone else’s child to play Junior Hockey for “free”. The USPHL crossed a bright line that was considered unacceptable by USA Hockey. As a Junior Hockey parent, I fully support USA Hockey’s position to not accept this type of financial structure in Junior Hockey. The USPHL has joined the ranks of other rogue, non-compliant USA Hockey Junior leagues such as the Western States Hockey League (WSHL). The WSHL teams are heavily composed of foreign players because this league has chosen to not follow USA Hockey’s very important “3 import limit” rule.
This means that the Peoria Mustangs are now the only Junior Tier III USA Hockey sanctioned team in Illinois. We see continued affiliation with the NA3HL and USA Hockey for the foreseeable future and also see continued related benefits and success.
Full details about the benefits and features of USA Hockey can be found on USA Hockey’s website, but, a few important points:
- USA Hockey was founded in 1937… and has grown to over 638,000 members.
- Emphasis is on support and development of hockey programs.
- Established the cutting edge “American Development Model” in 2009 that provides a blueprint for age appropriate athlete development.
- Established SafeSport in 2012 to help to protect and improve safety and behavior.
- Supports all levels and types of hockey participation, including the growing disabled hockey programs.
- Manages the certification programs and training for coaches and officials… all USA Hockey sanctioned Junior Hockey coaches must be at least Level 4 Certified to coach at the Junior Hockey level.
- Supports parent education.
- All USA Hockey Members receive a copy of USA Hockey Magazine (the most widely circulated hockey publication in the world) and each member gets excess accident, general liability and catastrophic insurance coverage.
- As the National Governing Body for the sport of ice hockey in the USA, USA Hockey is the official representative to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).