The annual Western States Hockey League Board of Governors meeting isn’t exactly a made-for-TV event but the 2013 version, which was once again held at the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, featured a lot of news that may interest fans and players alike.
First and foremost, the WSHL continues to expand and has added two teams into the fold for the 2013-2014 campaign. The Missoula (Montana) Maulers make the jump after spending the last two seasons in the American West Hockey League and a franchise in Fort Collins, Colorado, which has yet to be named, has also been approved. A franchise in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma has also been confirmed to join the WSHL but won’t begin play until the 2014-2015 season.
The addition of the two new squads for the 2013-2014 season means the league will feature four, six-team divisions, for a total of 24 member clubs, balancing out nicely for the first time in a while.
Missoula will jump right into the Northwest Division, where they’ll join the Thorne Cup and United Hockey Union National Champion Idaho Jr. Steelheads, along with the Southern Oregon Spartans, Seattle Totems, Ogden Mustangs and Salt Lake City Moose.
Fort Collins’ arrival makes things a bit trickier and tougher on one team in particular, the El Paso Rhinos.
The Rhinos played the 2012-2013 season as part of the Mountain Division, along with the Boulder Bison, Cheyenne Stampede, Phoenix Knights, Arizona Redhawks and New Mexico Renegades and the move form the Midwest division cut down significantly on their overall travel.
With Fort Collins set to play in the Mountain Division, Rhinos Head Coach Cory Herman did the league a favor by switching back to the Midwest Division to join the Dallas Ice Jets, Dallas Snipers, Texas Brahmas, Tulsa Jr. Oilers and Wichita Jr. Thunder. The move will re-ignite rivalries with both the Ice Jets and Brahmas but may only last one season, as Oklahoma City is expected to move into the Midwest next year, which could put El Paso back into the Mountain Division but that remains to be seen.
The Pacific Division is the only division with no changes, as all six teams return, including the Fresno Monsters, who are back in full force with head coach Bryce Dale at the helm of the elite franchise.
As far as rules go, the only real change has to do with the regular season overtime procedure and will now mimic what numerous other leagues have recently turned to, with good reviews.
During the regular season only, games that end in a tie after 60 minutes of play will then move to the usual four-on-four overtime period, lasting five minutes. In the past, if still tied, the two teams would then head to a five-man shootout and eventually a sudden-death format if the game had still not been decided. The change comes in the form of a three-on-three, five-minute overtime period that would follow the four-on-four frame and be held prior to a three-man shootout. The new rules is said to cut down on shootout losses and make it so the best team during gameplay has a better chance of getting the win.
Another small change comes in the form of uniforms, as over the last two seasons the league has designated that home teams wear dark uniforms. Following a rule that the Central Hockey League currently utilizes, the WSHL will now have home teams wear their white uniforms up until January 1 and then switch over to dark while at home until the conclusion of the regular season and playoffs.
Playoff procedures, cross-over schedules (inter-league match-ups), Western States Shootout scheduling/information, Thorne Cup bidding and UHU National Championship information will be available at a later date.
Brent Maranto is the WSHL Director of Communications