The Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA) announced on its blog Friday evening that the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) is undergoing a comprehensive restructuring to increase the level of play across its divisions.
The first step is to see the Premier Division strengthen its position as the top tier of junior hockey in the east through the addition of the OHA Europe. The OHA is a member team in the Austrian Ice Hockey Federation and will have approval from their federation to participate in games in the U.S.
“The Okanagan Hockey Academy Europe is very pleased and excited to be taking part in the USPHL Premier Division. This is going to be a great opportunity for our European players to play in a great league and gain exposure to the NCAA programs within the area,” said Okanagan Hockey Group Inc. president Andy Oakes in a press release.
According to USPHL president Richard Gallant, OHA Europe will complete a full USPHL Premier Division schedule including all USPHL showcase events and playoffs.
“The addition of the Okanagan Academy Europe and their roster of foreign players will allow USPHL players an exclusive opportunity to play a European based team and provide NCAA hockey coaches a unique opportunity to see a new group of potential players for their teams,” said USPHL president Richard Gallant.
Part two of the USPHL Premier restructuring is the relocation/sale of the Baystate Breakers’ premier team to Syracuse which will benefit from a partnership of the Syracuse Stars and the American Hockey League Syracuse Crush. Upon consummation, the USPHL will stand out with teams being owned or directly affiliated with three NHL franchises, three AHL franchises and be the only U.S. based league with a European based team.
The USPHL Elite Division will remain tier two level of hockey. To strengthen the level of play, the division will see the PAL Islanders and Rochester Americans add a team to the USPHL Elite Division to complement their Premier Division teams and see the sale/relocation of the Manchester franchise to Charlotte where a new team, the Rush, will be established and play out of the Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail, North Carolina. This execution will continue to upgrade this division’s level of play which last year generated a USA Hockey National champion and a multitude of NCAA placements.
The USPHL Empire Division will be renamed USP3HL or USP3 for short and remain its Tier 3 level of hockey. The Division will see a geographic rationalization of its membership with the sale/relocation of teams to Daytona Florida (the Daytona Racers) and Charlotte North Carolina (the Charlotte Rush). The Brooklyn Aviators, USPHL Empire 2014 champions, will relocate and change their name to the Brooklyn Dragons, upgrading its coaching staff and facilities.
The 24-team USPHL Mid-West Division will be organized into Eastern and Western Conferences and will compete to provide the highest level of hockey in the area. The goal of the USPHL Mid-West franchises are to move junior aged players onto the next level whether within the USPHL or directly into the NCAA.
In just two years, the USHPL has seen over 500 aspiring hockey players compete in the league and move onto NCAA collegiate hockey including close to 200 at the Division 1 level.
“This is a great time for the USPHL as the membership has come together to provide a truly unique platform for young aspiring hockey players,” said Gallant. “The USPHL will be the only junior league to have a pathway that connects bantam and midget hockey to a junior hockey model that spans three tiers of junior in the U.S.