The United States Premier Hockey League announced their intention to have 11 of their league teams move to USA Hockey’s Tier II status, pending approval of their application to USA Hockey.
The USPHL operates at the Tier III ‘pay-to-play’ status, in which players pay a tuition. Currently in the United States, the USHL is the only league with a ‘Tier I’ designation, in which all player expenses are covered. The NAHL is the only ‘Tier II’ league, in which player tuition and equipment is covered, but players pay a small stipend to cover their housing.
The 11 teams that will be in the league are:
Connecticut Jr. Rangers
Islanders Hockey Club
New Jersey Rockets
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders
South Shore Kings
A Tier II junior hockey option on the east coast is long overdue. Twelve years ago, the NAHL made a strong pitch to absorb the EJHL—a predecessor to the USPHL—into their league as a eastern division, but the deal ultimately fell through over cost concerns. But this year, with the NAHL adding a Massachusetts-based team in the Northeast Generals, it increased the pressure for the east coast to add a Tier II option.
Of course hockey isn’t free. The reason Tier II hasn’t been tried on the east coast prior to this year is that it is expensive, and junior teams on the east coast traditionally draw extremely poor crowds making it near impossible to offset the cost. It will be interesting to see how these teams manage to fund themselves. Extensive sponsorship help will likely be needed, and some of the costs are likely to be pushed down the lower levels of play.
It will be interesting to see if the USPHL can make this work from a financial standpoint, because if they are able to, it would be a great to have a high-level junior hockey option in the east.