Some of the Midwestern junior teams saw a lot of flux, moving from one league to another before settling in their current home. The United States Premier Hockey League has given teams such as the Tri-City Hawks a stable, competitive and productive home the last two years.
Not only will 15 Midwestern teams hit the ice in the USPHL Premier this season, but those teams are also able to skate in a number of USPHL showcases. Skating in both the Midwest and outside of Boston opens the Midwestern teams of the USPHL to scouting by Eastern U.S. colleges.
“We have a lot more advantages in moving our players to the collegiate level,” said Hawks owner/general manager Colleen Dore. “Our league really focuses on playing in front of the right colleges.
“With the upcoming season, a lot of the colleges are making commitments,” added Dore.
The USPHL Midwestern teams will have more showcases in Chicago, helping to cut down on long road trips.
“We will have to do some six-to seven-hour trips in there, but the Chicago showcases give a good rounded schedule,” said Dore.
In 2015-16, the USPHL Midwest was its own division in the league, with the Dells Ducks standing tall as the league champion in the end.
The teams were split up in 2016-17 between the USPHL Elite and the USP3 Division. The Ducks again advanced to the championship tournament, and they were joined there by the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings.
This season, they are all reunited in the USPHL Premier. They are split between a West Division and an East Division for travel purposes. The IceHawks will be in the East Division, with the Chicago Cougars, Kalkaska Rhinos, Decatur Blaze, Detroit Fighting Irish, Motor City Hawks and Traverse City North Stars.
The IceHawks move from the USP3 Division with the Blaze, Hawks and Rhinos.
“We’re moving from the USP3, and I think all of our teams last year were good, strong teams and competitive,” said Dore.
The majority of the West Division comes from the USPHL Elite Division. The West Division includes the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings, Dells Ducks, Wisconsin Muskies, Minnesota Mullets, Hudson Havoc, Steele County Blades, Isanti Wranglers and Ironwood Yoopers.
All of the teams also have an affiliate in the National Collegiate Development Conference. The Hawks are affiliated with the Syracuse Stars.
The Hawks are again looking forward to moving their players on to colleges at higher and higher levels. Dore, however, is grateful for the scouting of her players by local colleges such as Saginaw Valley State University, with an American College Hockey Association Division 3 team, and Oakland University, which has ACHA Division 1 and 3 teams.
It’s the Tri-City Hawks’ 10th season, and Dore is looking forward to a whole new era for her team.
"We are excited to have this opportunity, to take that step with the USPHL Premier League,” said Dore. “ The team has worked hard for this, and I feel that we are ready and already preparing, in putting the proper staff and changes into effect.”