In the Southern Tier of New York, not far from the Pennsylvania border, lies one hockey-mad town.
Elmira, N.Y., has not only been home to strong NCAA Division III men’s and women’s hockey teams at Elmira College since 1975, but was also home to competitive ECHL and UHL teams for nearly 20 years.
Now, the Elmira Jr. Enforcers are bringing junior hockey to the city alongside the pro Elmira Enforcers (Federal Prospects Hockey League) and Elmira College.
“This is a brand new team, a new franchise, that a group of local business owners in the arena created to keep junior hockey in the area,” said Jr. Enforcers General Manager Ray Welsh.
The Jr. Enforcers will share First Arena with the pro Enforcers, playing games on their main ice sheet in the arena, which seats over 3,400 for hockey, with practices being held on the second ice sheet in the building.
The former ECHL Elmira Jackals left town in 2017, but Elmira’s new pro team, the Enforcers, have a strong draw for their Federal Prospects Hockey League team. The Enforcers broke the FPHL attendance record with 4,310 in attendance for an Oct. 26, 2018 game.
"The United States Premier Hockey League is excited to welcome the Elmira Jr. Enforcers to the USPHL Premier Division,” said USPHL Commissioner Richard Gallant. “We expect the Jr. Enforcers will be a great addition to the league, especially as they are aligned with a pro hockey team in a supportive hockey town, one that is also home to a strong NCAA hockey program."
“This is a great hockey town with a great hockey history, and a top-notch facility that we can use to provide young men a chance to play at an advanced level,” added Jim Cendoma, a member of the ownership group.
“In the organization that I was with before, we always placed the emphasis on our players, and always got them into good colleges. That will not change with the Jr. Enforcers,” said Welsh. “We are going to run this program as best as we can and as close to an NHL model as we can within our budget. We have a good locker room, good bus transportation, the kids will stay in good hotel rooms on the road and they’ll have good meals on the road, as well.”
“This is an exciting day for hockey in the Twin Tiers,” said FPHL Elmira Enforcers and PCGBL Elmira Pioneers owner Robbie Nichols. “There will be a lot of cooperation and synergy between the Enforcers and Jr. Enforcers that will add value for hockey fans and sponsors.”
The Jr. Enforcers are especially looking forward to playing in the USPHL, with its track record of having developed more than 1,200 collegiate hockey players who were active during the 2019-20 season alone.
More than 250 alumni of the USPHL and its Member Organizations were playing pro hockey in 2019-20, at levels ranging from the NHL (Jack Eichel, Charlie Coyle and Stanley Cup Champion Zach Sanford among the list) to North American minor pro to European pro hockey.
“Our ownership group picked the league. I’ve heard good things about it. We had a number of the top teams from our previous league move over together to the USPHL, including the Metro Jets and Pittsburgh Vengeance,” said Welsh. “We are hoping our program can compete with those programs. We like the short bus trips, certainly.”
With all the uncertainty around the coronavirus situation, tryout dates are still to be announced.
Learn more about the Elmira Jr. Enforcers on their website, jrenforcers.com, and keep an eye out for tryout information amidst the current, fluid situation.