Year one consisted of six teams, spanning Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah, with all member clubs playing a 30-game schedule operating as Tier III Junior B teams. The Anaheim Jr. Ducks won the first-ever Thorne Cup Championship that year and is the only franchise from the inaugural season still in existence, now operating as the Long Beach Bombers.
Current Commissioner Ron White took over operation of the WSHL in 1995 and continued to expand it over time eventually growing to the current 28 teams stretching across 14 states, making it the second largest junior hockey league in North America. In 2007 the WSHL upgraded their league status from the Tier III Junior B level to Junior A to attract higher quality prospects. In 2011 the league would join the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and dropped its USA Hockey sanctioning leading to the loss of its most successful franchise, the Phoenix Polar Bears, while adding many new teams. After the WSHL's success without USA Hockey the United Hockey Union was formed under the AAU sanctioning along with the Northern States Hockey League (NSHL) and the Midwest Junior Hockey League (MWJHL). The UHU leagues continued to operate with Tier III Junior A player requirements. In 2015, the WSHL Board of Governors announced the approval of the league to start competing as a Tier II-level player league for a higher caliber of play beginning in the 2015–16 season. Prior to the announcement the only Tier II-level league in the United States was the North American Hockey League. However, unlike the USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier II NAHL, the UHU-sanctioned WSHL will operate similar to the Canadian Junior Hockey League's Junior "A" status and continue to charge player tuition to help pay for team travel expenses. As part of the approval to Tier II status, the Board of Governors also announced the formation of the Western Prospects League, a UHU approved Tier III development league for the WHL.
The WSHL has had numerous teams attend and win the USA Hockey National Championship over the years and most recently, the El Paso Rhinos were crowned the United Hockey Union National Champions in 2014. The WSHL has had great success in moving players on to the college hockey ranks through the “Western States Shootout”, an annual all-league showcase held every December in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event averages in excess of 80 scouts in attendance, all of whom are looking to bolster their roster for the following season.
The 2014–15 regular season featured 28 teams competing across four divisions, all playing a 46-game regular season schedule, which mimics what players would experience at the collegiate level. Hockey politics in Texas extended into the legal realm and resulted in the Polar Ice House closing its doors. This facility was the home arena of the Dallas Ice Jets and a new expansion franchise, the Texas Attack. With the loss of their ice rink both teams had to bow out of the 2014–15 season and there has been no announcement if the teams will return.