The Rise or Demise of Tier 3 Junior Hockey

Posted by Staff Writer on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 Under: Hockey

The Rise or Demise of Tier 3 Junior Hockey

The Rise or Demise of Tier 3 Junior Hockey

 As most of you know in the last few months there have been some drastic changes in USA hockey for tier 3 junior hockey. The biggest involving the MnJHL, NA3HL, and the USPHL.

 After the conclusion of the 2014-2015 season the MnJHL has officially been terminated. This has seem to transpire for many reasons. The following teams left the MnJHL to join the new division in the USPHL elite the  Dell Ducks, Minnesota Owls, St Louis Frontenacs, Ironwood Yoopers, Wisconsin Rapid Riverkings, Wooster Oilers, Illiana Blackbirds, Marquette Royals, Fort Wayne Federals, Tri City Icehawks, Chicago Rampage, Hudson Crusaders, Maple Grove Energy, and the Steele County Blades. Which now grows the USPHL to over one hundred team’s total. After forty one years of existence and sending hundreds of kids on to college and pro it’s disheartening to see the league terminate. A league that’s hoisted the USA hockey national championship trophy six times. To see the MnJHL leave USA hockey and junior hockey all together is devastating for the history aspect of American junior hockey and for the college advancements the MnJHL brought.

 The Na3hl is a perfect example of how watered down US junior hockey is getting. It never seizes to amaze me that a league can have the National Champion and the bronze medal. But still have unbelievably horrific teams. The Na3hl has and is turning into a league just as watered down as the WSHL. The Championship has been won by two teams the last five seasons, both out of the same division. As of now the Na3 is composed of thirty one teams, spread across nineteen different states, and only five of those states have division three college hockey teams. There’s even a division out east called the NA3EHL. It’s unfathomable that there’s this many teams in a league, and It’s only growing. The amount of commitments help even out the lack of talent with some teams. Just about the only good thing I see with the NA3HL is the “name.” The ties the league has with the tier 2 North American Hockey League is fantastic. With moving players on and giving NA drops a place to play it gives the tier 2 league an amazing farm league. But once again I come back to the watered down part of this league. Only about six to ten teams move players on to the NA. Leaving the other twenty one teams with little to no college commitments and no players moved up to higher levels.

 The USPHL now has over one hundred teams spread around five different levels. They have u16 AAA, u18 AAA, Empire, Elite, and Premier. I actually admire the fact that the USPHL has included midget AAA levels into their league. It starts a great building block for the league. The Empire division is also a smart moving giving younger kids a shot at junior hockey. This gives them double the games, practices, and competition. The Elite division is the only division I personally don’t agree with. Personal opinion wise I see this division as a money maker. Kids hardly get pulled up to the Premier and seem to barley get legit commitments other than a few Northeast teams that are well known programs such as the Jr Bruins, Bay State, and the New Jersey Hitmen. But short from those seems there are little to no commitments. The Premier division is on a whole different level. Based around money the fact that they’re  considered tier 3 is unreal. This division has produced NCAA DIII players, NCAA DI players, and even a handful of NHL draft picks. The Premier’s top teams seemed to have about 50 percent or so of their players committed to play Division I hockey. Which if you look at every other tier 3 league there isn’t a single DI commit. The top teams from Premier could easily compete with NAHL teams. So is it a terrible move for all those MnJHL teams to switch to this league? At first glance at all the facts it does seem to give them lots of room for options and player development. But just based on distance I find it rather pointless to have a Midwest division in a league that is mainly east coast. The money the Midwest division teams will have to pay for two showcases in Boston is far greater than the NA3 showcase in Blaine. Which both have lots of scouts in attendance its still much cheaper for NA3 teams. 

 As watered down as the NA3HL has become I still believe it’s a better face of tier 3 junior hockey than the USPHL. It gives kids more opportunity to move on to college or a higher level of hockey. If you get stock in the USPHL Elite division you seem to have little options of moving higher in level and little options of moving on to good colleges. With giving you guys my personal opinions of the all the changes of tier 3 junior hockey I would still like to mention that It’s still all tier 3 hockey. There’s still big and small differences in all these leagues but when it comes down to the main point of tier 3 junior hockey (not including the Premier) it’s still all relatively the same in the long run. If you find a team with a good program, staff, and history you’re in for an amazing time. 

In : Hockey 

Tags: juniors "junior hockey" na3hl mnjhl usphl junior hockey tier 3 
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