skip navigation

Battle Creek Kernels Set To Join USPHL Premier In 2022-23 Season

By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com, 04/06/22, 5:00PM EDT

Share

The United States Premier Hockey League’s growth in Michigan continues, as the Battle Creek Kernels are set to debut in 2022-23 as part of the USPHL Premier’s Midwest East Division. 

The Kernels are partly owned by Triston Jensen, who has significant coaching and general manager experience in the USPHL Premier, as well as his family who comprise Dartris Enterprises, the full ownership group of the new Kernels. 

“Looking at the direction I wanted to build towards, I asked myself ‘do I want to continue working for someone else?’ I began looking at places to land, and Battle Creek, Michigan, was a little closer to home for me,” said Jensen, the former head coach and GM of the USPHL Premier’s Rum River Mallards. “We will have the Kernels become a team that will be a family-run business in a family-oriented community.” 

“The USPHL Premier is excited to continue working with Triston Jensen and his family, as they bring USPHL hockey to Battle Creek,” said USPHL Commissioner Bob Turow. “We wish Triston and the Kernels the very best of luck, and know that they will run a first-class organization in one of the great hockey states!” 

Battle Creek is not new to the junior hockey landscape. It was once home to the former West Michigan Wolves, who - as the Lansing Wolves - joined other former NA3HL organizations in 2018-19 to form the USPHL Premier’s Great Lakes Division. Battle Creek has also been home to pro hockey, as the Battle Creek Rumble Bees played a single season there in 2019-20 as part of the Federal Prospects Hockey League. 

“You have to do a lot of market research to get to know the community you’re going into. The Rumble Bees were 1-45-0-2 but they still averaged 365 fans per game,” said Jensen, whose team will play at The Rink Battle Creek in the heart of downtown. “There is a brand new ice surface, everything’s been repainted, they’re building us a locker room- all of the amenities are there. We are one of few hockey teams that get to play right in the downtown area of a city. That’ll really bring a pro hockey experience for both the players and the fans.” 

The team name, the Kernels, honors both the area’s agricultural and food manufacturing heritage (Battle Creek is home to the Kellogg’s headquarters) as well as its military heritage - utilizing the phonetic spelling of the rank of colonel. 

“Fort Custer, near here, was one of the biggest bases from which infantry units deployed for World War I and World War II,” said Jensen. “We’re thinking outside the box, trying unorthodox things and continuing to build the brand of what the USPHL Premier has become, which is the best Tier III junior hockey league in America.” 

Dartris Enterprises, the ownership group, also owns a learning academy and a construction company among its multiple assets. Dartris is named after Triston and his sister Darby, who is in law school and will become the team’s lawyer once she graduates. The company was begun by his father Mekay and mother Kathy. Additionally, his sister’s fiance will be the Kernels’ strength and conditioning coach.  

“This is a family business and we’re going to preach community and family values,” said Jensen. “When you see Battle Creek, you’re going to see a family of people connected, from ownership to the coaching staff to the players.”

Bringing in players is among the biggest challenges facing the first-year Kernels, but Jensen is certainly not concerned with putting together a strong roster of 28. 

“We will market our team nationally, and we also have the USPHL NCDC Combine Series coming up,” said Jensen. “I have some inroads with players who have played for me in the past, and are interested in coming back to play for me.” 

Scouting and recruiting during the spring and summer are certainly foremost on the priority list. He believes the Kernels offer a mix of a fantastic experience and a fantastic setting. 

“We’re going to work a lot with the BattleJacks minor league baseball here in town to have some crossover nights - a Kernels night at a BattleJacks game and vice versa - and we’re going to recruit good host families, and put fans in the seats,” said Jensen. “People might laugh at our name and logo at first, but we’re always going to compete hard, and no one will be laughing when we’re heading to the USPHL Nationals next year!”