The Western States Hockey League is going international next year.
By Joshua Boyd
During its annual Shootout showcase in Las Vegas, Nev., the league’s commissioner Ron White announced that the WSHL will expand to Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia in Canada in 2018-19.
The newly-formed Western Provinces Hockey Association will comprise the Provincial Division of the WSHL next season. There will be between 6-8 teams in that division.
The WPHA has already begun discussions with several communities who have long desired a recognized junior hockey league to bring competitive hockey to community venues.
One such community seeking a team for the WPHA/WSHL merger is Cold Lake, Alberta. Mayor Craig Copeland made the trip to Las Vegas to watch the WSHL Shootout and get a handle on the talent level and competitiveness of the AAU-affiliated league.
“Minor hockey in Cold Lake is very strong, and we have a Jr. B team, but we feel the level of hockey in this league, since being here yesterday and today [Dec. 20], and how it compares to hockey back home, is impressive,” said Copeland.
“Cold Lake is a beautiful town, and for a small town, there are five rinks,” said White. “They built a gorgeous facility recently there.”
Copeland said that the town does have a 1,500 seat arena. There is also a new rink being built that will have 400 seats.
“It’s tough, in Alberta, to join the Alberta Junior Hockey League. For Ron’s group, the WSHL, to allow Canadian teams to enter, it’s pretty fabulous,” said Copeland. “It’s all about the kids, it’s all about getting them the exposure to play college hockey. With more kids playing hockey, if we can get kids into [colleges] in the United States, that’s pretty fantastic.”
“The partners within the WSHL are extremely excited about the expansion into the Provincial Division with such a well-financed group of business professionals,” White added. “We look forward to working with members of the WPHA to successfully bring [United Hockey Union] Junior A Tier-2 hockey to the communities the WPHA is working with at this time.”