The North American 3 Eastern Hockey League (NA3EHL) has announced that its member teams have been granted USA Hockey Tier III independent certification for the upcoming 2015-16 season.
“This is an exciting step for the NA3EHL and we thank USA Hockey for their consideration and diligence throughout this process,” said NAHL Commissioner and President Mark Frankenfeld. “We feel this is the next step in providing more opportunity for players to advance though our unique ladder of development and we feel the NA3EHL will continue to increase the level of competition and organization.”
NA3EHL clubs will now be able to develop stronger partnerships with their USA Hockey affiliates and the youth programs that surround them. The certification also opens up a variety of showcase and exposure opportunities in cooperation with NAHL, NA3HL and NAPHL events, as well as, other USA Hockey members. The teams will be required to comply with all USA Hockey Junior Rules & Regulations, which include current Tier III import restrictions.
The NA3EHL is coming off a remarkable debut season in 2014-15. The league had three, very successful showcases with a nice scouting presence, along with a thrilling championship series. The NA3EHL also took part in the NA3HL Showcase in December, where a selected group of players played on an NA3EHL selects team against some of the best the NA3HL had to offer. The experience for the group included a win over eventual USA Hockey Tier III junior National Champion and NA3HL Champion, the North Iowa Bulls. Plans for the 2015-16 season are well underway, which includes growth of the league from 10 to 13 teams.
“Three years ago, seven teams took a giant leap of faith by starting our own league. We worked together for a common goal, so this announcement is very exciting to say the least,” said Cape Cod Islanders President Dan Hodge. “As a group we have worked extremely hard to build a top-level Tier III junior league and partnering with the NAHL family last season put us on a great path. Being a member of the USA Hockey will allow the NA3EHL to enhance its position among the Tier III junior leagues. Also having the opportunity to participate in NAHL events will be something every player in our league circles on the schedule.”
"We are extremely excited to join the USA Hockey family at the junior level. Through the hard work and perseverance of our group and the unending support of the NAHL, we have now attained a goal we have been striving to achieve for quite some time,” remarked Frank Vecchio, General Manager and Head Coach of the Lockport Express. “This past season we all put a great deal of time and effort into partnering with the NAHL family and to now be able to transition that into becoming a member of the USA Hockey is a tremendous opportunity to build on our past successes. This will help propel our programs to greater achievements, which provides players with even greater opportunities than we were able to provide previously.”
"We are very excited to be joining the USA Junior Hockey Family. This is something that we have been working toward for a while now and with the support and direction of the NAHL we have been able to attain our goal,” said Dan Fontas, General Manager of the New England Stars. "Over the past few seasons our league's brand and strength has grown substantially, however, with our clubs now under the combined NAHL and USA Hockey umbrella, we feel that we have unending growth and branding opportunity that will help us grow at a faster pace. It also gives our players an opportunity for great exposure and will demonstrate our connection with each NAHL league. Our clubs have been successful the past few seasons of placing players at the NCAA level, but being able to do it with USA and NAHL branding will help our players attain that status even more and it will help us gain notoriety. I think it will give our players and league members more respect."
The NA3EHL features 13 active members for the 2015-16 season, which include: Cape Cod Islanders (Dennis, MA), East Coast Minutemen (Salem, NH), Jersey Shore Wildcats (Point Pleasant Beach, NJ), LA Fighting Spirit (Lewiston, ME), Lockport Express (Lockport, NY), Maine Wild (Biddeford, ME), New England Stars (Hudson, NH), New York Aviators (Brooklyn, NY), Northeast Generals (Canton, MA), Roc City Royals (Rochester, NY), Skyland Kings (Stockholm, NJ), Syracuse Stampede (Mexico, NY) and Wilkes-Barre Miners (Wilkes-Barre, PA). During the past two seasons, over three-dozen players have committed to NCAA schools.
NA3EHL teams will compete in a 44-game regular season schedule and will take part in two Showcases throughout the 2015-16 season. There will be playoffs to determine a Champion in March of 2016.