North American Hockey League
|No. of teams||24|
|Shreveport Mudbugs (1st title)|
|Most titles||Compuware Ambassadors (11)|
The North American Hockey League (NAHL) is one of the top junior hockey leagues in the United States and is in its 43rd season of operation in 2018–19. It is the only Tier II junior league sanctioned by USA Hockey, and acts as an alternative to the Tier I United States Hockey League (USHL). The NAHL is the oldest junior hockey league in the United States and is headquartered in Frisco, Texas (they are co-located in the same facility as the National Hockey League's Dallas Stars).
The league consists of four divisions with a total of 24 teams. The teams span the United States from Massachusetts in the East to Alaska in the Northwest and to Texas in the South. The teams play a 60-game regular season, starting in mid-September and ending in early April. The top teams of the NAHL playoffs meet in a predetermined location to play in the Robertson Cup Championship Tournament.
Under USA Hockey Tier II sanctioning, NAHL teams do not charge players to play and also provide players with uniforms, team clothing and select equipment such as sticks, gloves and helmets. Players without local family live with billet families in their area and pay a monthly stipend that covers food and other costs. Unlike the Tier I United States Hockey League, there are no roster restrictions in the NAHL on overage players, which allows for the older players to gain extra NCAA exposure as well as teams to retain a veteran core. Teams are still bound to USA Hockey rules regarding import players and presently each team is allowed to have three non-American players on their roster.
From its beginning in 1975, the NAHL was primarily a 6–12-team league based in the Midwest, known as the Great Lakes Junior Hockey League and changed the name to the North American Hockey League in 1984. The league's all-time leading scorer is Mike York who tallied 371 points in two seasons. Other notable alumni from the NAHL include Pat Lafontaine, Mike Modano, Doug Weight, Pat Peake, Brian Rolston, Brian Holzinger, Brian Rafalski, Todd Marchant and John Scott. In 2003, the league merged with the defunct America West Hockey League to form a 19-team league.
The 2018–19 season has 24 teams playing in 4 divisions:
Note: An asterisk (*) denotes a franchise relocation. See respective team articles from more information.
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- Alaska Avalanche (Wasilla, Alaska from 2006–10; Palmer, Alaska from 2010–12; relocated to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and renamed Johnstown Tomahawks)
- Albert Lea Thunder (Albert Lea, Minnesota; 2008–10; relocated to Amarillo, Texas, and renamed Amarillo Bulls)
- Aston Rebels (Aston, Pennsylvania; 2015–17 was relocated and renamed to Philadelphia Rebels)
- Alexandria Blizzard (Alexandria, Minnesota; 2006–12; relocated to Brookings, South Dakota, and renamed Brookings Blizzard)
- Alpena IceDiggers (Alpena, Michigan; 2005–10; relocated to Corpus Christi, Texas, and renamed Corpus Christi IceRays)
- Billings Bulls (Billings, Montana; 2003–06; joined the NorPac)
- Bloomfield Jets (Bloomfield, Michigan; 1987–90; relocated to Lakeland, Michigan, and renamed Lakeland Jets)
- Bozeman Icedogs (Bozeman, Montana; 2003–06; joined the NorPac)
- Buffalo Jr. Sabres (Buffalo, New York; 1983–86)
- C & H Piping (Melvindale, Michigan; 1988–89; renamed Melvindale Blades)
- Capital Centre Pride (Lansing, Michigan; 2000–03)
- Central Texas Blackhawks (Belton, Texas; 2003–05; renamed Central Texas Marshals for the 2004–05 season before ceasing operations at the end of the season)
- Chicago Cougars (Chicago, Illinois; 1986–87; folded midseason)
- Chicago Freeze (Chicago, Illinois; 1997-2003; folded due to "increased operation costs and low attendance")
- Chicago Hitmen (Chicago, Illinois; 2010–12; announced it would not play the 2012–13 season on May 11, 2012)
- Chicago Patriots (Chicago, Illinois; 1986–87; folded midseason)
- Chicago Young Americans (Chicago, Illinois; 1987–89)
- Cleveland Barons (Cleveland, Ohio; 1976–79; withdrew from the league prior to the 1979–80 GLJHL season)
- Coulee Region Chill (La Crosse, Wisconsin; 2010–18; sold and relocated to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, as the Chippewa Steel)
- Cleveland Jr. Barons (Parma, Ohio; 1993–2006; relocated to Columbus, Ohio, renamed Ohio Junior Blue Jackets and joined the USHL)
- Danville Wings (Danville, Illinois, 1994–2003; joined the USHL)
- Dawson Creek Rage (Dawson Creek, British Columbia; 2010–12; ceased operations after 2011–12 season; franchise sold to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in 2015)
- Dayton Gems (Dayton, Ohio; 2003–04; dissolved after 21 games, roster dispersed amongst remaining teams)
- Dearborn Heights Nationals (Dearborn Heights, Michigan; 1994–96; formerly Michigan Nationals; relocated to St. Louis, Missouri and renamed St. Louis Sting)
- Dearborn Magic (Dearborn, Michigan; 1990–91; renamed Michigan Nationals)
- Detroit Compuware/Compuware Ambassadors (Detroit, Michigan; 1984–2003)
- Detroit Falcons (Fraser, Michigan; 1986–87; formerly St. Clair Shores Falcons)
- Detroit Freeze (Fraser, Michigan; 1992–97; moved to Chicago and renamed the Chicago Freeze)
- Detroit Junior Wings (Detroit, Michigan; 1975–83 GLJHL, 1987–92 NAHL; Junior Red Wings moved to the OHL; replaced by the Detroit Freeze)
- Detroit Little Caesars (Detroit, Michigan; 1975–76; only played in the inaugural season of the GLJHL)
- Fargo-Moorhead Jets (Fargo, North Dakota; 2003–08)
- Fernie Ghostriders (Fernie, British Columbia; 2003–04; franchise rights were sold to a Kalamazoo, Michigan based group in 2003; joined the KIJHL)
- Fraser Flags (Fraser, Michigan; 1981–84)
- Fraser Highlanders (Fraser, Michigan; 1976–80)
- Fresno Monsters (Fresno, California; 2010–13; relocated to Wenatchee, Washington, and renamed Wenatchee Wild)
- Gaylord Grizzles (Gaylord, Michigan; 1995–98; formerly Saginaw Gears until relocating in December 1995; relocated to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and renamed Grand Rapids Bearcats)
- Grand Rapids Bearcats (Grand Rapids, Michigan; 1998–2000; renamed Rockets during the 1999–2000 season when the league took over the franchise; relocated to Lansing and renamed Capital Centre Pride)
- Helena Bighorns (Helena, Montana; 2003–06; joined the NorPac)
- Hennessey Engineers (Plymouth, Michigan; 1985–87)
- Indianapolis Junior Ice (Indianapolis, Indiana; 1989–95)
- Jamestown Ironmen (Jamestown, New York; 2011–13; ceased operations after 2012–13 season due to ownership issues)
- Kalamazoo Jr. Wings (Kalamazoo, Michigan; 1989–94; relocated to Danville, Illinois, and renamed Danville Wings)
- Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings (Kalamazoo, Michigan; 2011–13; ceased operations after 2012–13 season)
- Keystone Ice Miners (Connellsville, Pennsylvania; 2014–15; Ceased operations after one season in Pennsylvania)
- Lakeland Jets (Lakeland, Michigan; 1990–95; relocated to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and renamed Soo Indians)
- Lone Star Cavalry (North Richland Hills, Texas; 2003–04; relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and renamed Santa Fe RoadRunners)
- Lytes Rustlers (1990–91; Traveling team composed of west coast prospects played for one season)
- Mahoning Valley Phantoms (Boardman, Ohio; 2005–09; relocated to Youngstown, Ohio, moved to the USHL, and renamed Youngstown Phantoms)
- Marquette Rangers (Marquette, Michigan; 2006–10; relocated to Flint, Michigan, and renamed Michigan Warriors)
- Melvindale Blades (Melvindale, Michigan; 1989–90)
- Melvindale Lakers (Melvindale, Michigan; 1982–83)
- Michigan Nationals (Dearborn, Michigan; 1991–94; renamed Dearborn Heights Nationals)
- Michigan Warriors (Flint, Michigan; 2010–15; suspended operations after being displaced by the OHL's Flint Firebirds)
- Minnesota Blizzard (Alexandria, Minnesota; 2003–06; renamed Alexandria Blizzard)
- Motor City Machine (Detroit, Michigan; 2008–09; renamed Motor City Metal Jackets)
- Motor City Metal Jackets (Detroit, Michigan, 2009–11; relocated to Jamestown, New York, renamed Jamestown Ironmen).
- New Mexico Mustangs (Rio Rancho, New Mexico; 2010–12: purchased and relocated to Richfield, Minnesota, after a one-year hiatus and renamed Minnesota Magicians)
- Niagara Scenic (West Seneca, New York; 1987–94)
- North Iowa Outlaws (Mason City, Iowa; 2005–10; relocated to Onalaska, Wisconsin, and renamed Coulee Region Chill)
- Oakland Chiefs (Oakland, Michigan; 1975–76; relocated to Wayne, Michigan, and renamed Wayne Chiefs)
- Owatonna Express (Owatonna, Minnesota; 2008–11; relocated to Odessa, Texas, and renamed Odessa Jackalopes)
- Paddock Pool Saints (Ecorse, Michigan; 1975–84; won seven straight GLJHL titles)
- Philadelphia Rebels (Philadelphia Pennsylvania; 2017–18; relocated from Aston for one season before relocating to Jamestown, New York as the Jamestown Rebels)
- Pittsburgh Forge (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 2001–03; relocated to Toledo, Ohio, and renamed Toledo IceDiggers)
- Port Huron Fighting Falcons (Port Huron, Michigan; 2010–14; relocated to Connellsville, Pennsylvania, and renamed Keystone Ice Miners)
- Port Huron Fogcutters (Port Huron, Michigan; 1975–76)
- Redford Royals (Redford, Michigan; 1978–84, 1987–89)
- Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (Hidalgo, Texas; 2013–15; relocated to Aston, Pennsylvania, and renamed the Aston Rebels)
- Rochester Junior Americans (Rochester, New York; 1999–2000)
- Saginaw Gears (Saginaw, Michigan; 1991–95; relocated in midseason to Gaylord, Michigan, and renamed Gaylord Grizzles)
- Santa Fe RoadRunners (Santa Fe, New Mexico; 2004–07; relocated to Topeka, Kansas, and renamed Topeka RoadRunners)
- Soo Eagles (Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; 2012–15; returned to NOJHL & franchise relocated to Middletown, New Jersey, and renamed the New Jersey Titans)
- Soo Indians (Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; 1995–2005)
- Southern Minnesota Express (Owatonna, Minnesota; 2005–08; relocated to Detroit area and renamed Motor City Machine)
- Springfield Spirit (Springfield, Missouri; 2001–05; relocated to Wasilla, Alaska, and renamed Wasilla Spirit)
- St. Clair Shores Falcons (St. Clair Shores, Michigan; 1983–86; relocated to Fraser, Michigan, and renamed Detroit Falcons for one season)
- St. Louis Bandits (St. Louis, Missouri; 2006–12; purchased and relocated to Cloquet, Minnesota, after a one-year hiatus and to be used by the Minnesota Wilderness)
- St. Louis Sting (St. Louis, Missouri; 1996–2001; relocated to Springfield, Missouri, and renamed Springfield Spirit)
- Texarkana Bandits (Texarkana, Arkansas; 2003–06; relocated to St. Louis, Missouri, and renamed St. Louis Bandits)
- Texas Tornado (North Richland Hills, Texas for 1999–2008; hiatus for 2008–09 season; Frisco, Texas for 2009–13; relocated to back North Richland Hills in 2013 and renamed Lone Star Brahmas)
- Toledo IceDiggers (Toledo, Ohio; 2003–05; relocated to Alpena, Michigan, and renamed Alpena IceDiggers)
- Topeka RoadRunners (Topeka, Kansas; 2007–18; renamed Topeka Pilots under new ownership)
- Traverse City North Stars (Traverse City, Michigan; 2005–12; franchise purchased and relocated to be used by the Soo Eagles)
- USA Hockey National Team Development Program (Ann Arbor, Michigan; 1996–2009; moved to USHL)
- Wasilla Spirit (Wasilla, Alaska; 2005–06; renamed Alaska Avalanche)
- Waterford Lakers (Waterford, Michigan; 1981–82)
- Wayne Chiefs (Wayne, Michigan; 1976–80)
- Wenatchee Wild (Wenatchee, Washington; 2008–13; relocated to Hidalgo, Texas, and renamed Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees; Wild returned with the Fresno membership)
- Wenatchee Wild (Wenatchee, Washington; 2013–15; former Fresno franchise; joined the BCHL following the 2014–15 season)
- Western Michigan Wolves (Kalamazoo, Michigan; 1988–89; renamed Kalamazoo Jr. Wings)
- Wichita Falls Rustlers (Wichita Falls, Texas; 2003–04; renamed Wichita Falls Wildcats)
- Wichita Falls Wildcats (Wichita Falls, Texas; 2004–17; folded)
- Youngstown Phantoms (Boardman, Ohio; 2003–05; renamed Mahoning Valley Phantoms when the Central Hockey League's Youngstown SteelHounds began play in 2005)
Timeline of league changes
2006–07 season: Bozeman Icedogs, Billings Bulls, and Helena Bighorns left the league for the Northern Pacific Hockey League. Cleveland Jr. Barons were granted inactive status for the season. Wasilla Spirit changed names to Alaska Avalanche. Minnesota Blizzard became the Alexandria Blizzard. Texarkana Bandits moved to Chesterfield, Missouri, and became the St. Louis Bandits. Marquette Rangers were added to the league.
2008–09 season: The Southern Minnesota Express moved to Detroit and became the Motor City Machine. However, the Express' home city of Owatonna was granted another NAHL team for 2008–09, named the Owatonna Express. The Express were joined by another new Minnesota NAHL franschise, the Albert Lea Thunder. The Texas Tornado franchise went on a one-year hiatus as they awaited renovations on their arena. Wenatchee, Washington, was awarded an expansion franchise for the 2008–09 season as the Wenatchee Wild. The Fargo-Moorhead Jets were approved for dormancy.
2009–10 season: The Janesville Jets were awarded an expansion franchise. The Mahoning Valley Phantoms and the USNTDP left the league for the USHL. The Texas Tornado returned to the league after taking a year off while their home arena was undergoing renovations. The Motor City franchise's new ownership changed the team's nickname from Machine to Metal Jackets.
2010–11 season: The NAHL Board of Governors accepted membership of several new teams in the league. The Fresno Monsters were awarded an expansion franchise. after having a team in the Tier III Junior A Western States Hockey League. The Corpus Christi IceRays were awarded a franchise formerly known as the Alpena IceDiggers. The Chicago Hitmen joined the North Division and played at West Meadows Ice Arena in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. The Marquette Rangers moved to Flint, Michigan, and changed their name to Michigan Warriors. Port Huron joined the North Division and played at McMorran Place in Port Huron, Michigan. The North Iowa Outlaws relocated to become the Coulee Region Chill in Onalaska, Wisconsin. The Aberdeen Wings joined the Central Division and played at the Odde Ice Center in Aberdeen, South Dakota. The Austin Bruins joined the Central Division and played at the Riverside Arena in Austin, Minnesota. The Dawson Creek Rage joined the West Division and played at EnCana Events Centre in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. The Albert Lea Thunder relocate to become the Amarillo Bulls at joined the South Division out of the Amarillo Civic Center in Amarillo, Texas. The New Mexico Mustangs joined the South Division and played at Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The Alaska Avalanche relocate to Palmer, Alaska, but keep the same name.
2011–12 season: The Owatonna Express relocate to Odessa, Texas, and become Odessa Jackalopes. The Motor City Metal Jackets relocate to Jamestown, New York, and become Jamestown Ironmen. The Minot Minotauros and Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings granted expansion.
2012–13 season: The Alaska Avalanche relocated to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and became Johnstown Tomahawks. Alexandria Blizzard relocated to Brookings, South Dakota, and became the Brookings Blizzard. Traverse City North Stars franchise purchased by the Soo Eagles and joined the league from Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. The Dawson Creek Rage, New Mexico Mustangs, and St. Louis Bandits takes leaves of absence. The Chicago Hitmen fold.
2013–14 season: The dormant New Mexico Mustangs relocated to Richfield, Minnesota, and became Minnesota Magicians. The Texas Tornado relocated back to North Richland Hills, Texas, and became Lone Star Brahmas. The Minnesota Wilderness joined the league from the Superior International Junior Hockey League by purchasing dormant St. Louis Bandits franchise. The Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees purchased the Wenatchee Wild franchise. The Fresno Monsters were relocated to become the second incarnation of the Wenatchee Wild and the Monsters returned to only fielding a team in the Western States Hockey League. The Jamestown Ironmen and Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings ceased operations.
2014–15 season: The Port Huron Fighting Falcons were relocated to Connellsville, Pennsylvania, to become the Keystone Ice Miners, remaining in the North Division, and the Wenatchee Wild moved from the Midwest Division to the South Division.
2015–16 season: On May 1, 2015, the NAHL announced that the dormant Dawson Creek Rage franchise was purchased by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights organization to be an expansion team for the 2015–16 season. The Keystone Ice Miners ceased operations. The Michigan Warriors ceased operations due to the arrival of the major junior Flint Firebirds. The Soo Eagles announced they were returning to the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League citing the lack of other local teams as they were the last remaining team in Michigan. The New Jersey Junior Titans organization bought the franchise from the Eagles and relocated to Middleton, New Jersey. The Eagles originally sought membership with the NAHL for the 2012–13 season and returned to the NOJHL for the season 2015–16 season. The Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees were relocated to Aston, Pennsylvania and became the Aston Rebels. A new East Division was formed composed of Aston, Johnstown, New Jersey, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Wenatchee Wild organization left the NAHL and joined the Canadian Junior A British Columbia Hockey League.
2016–17 season: The league announced the continued expansion of the East Division by adding the Northeast Generals of Attleboro, Massachusetts. The Generals organization also has a Tier III team in the North American 3 Hockey League (previously in the North American 3 Eastern Hockey League prior to the 2016 league merger). On April 8, 2016, the Shreveport Mudbugs were announced as an expansion team.
2018–19 season: The NAHL added another team to its East Division with an expansion franchise granted to the Maryland Black Bears. The Coulee Region Chill were sold and relocated as the Chippewa Steel in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and the Philadelphia Rebels became the Jamestown Rebels in Jamestown, New York. The Topeka RoadRunners were sold and rebranded as the Topeka Pilots.
Robertson Cup winners
The Robertson Cup Championship is a playoff series held at the end of the NAHL season. The trophy is awarded annually to the USA Hockey Tier II junior national playoff champion. The Cup is the oldest junior hockey trophy in the United States and is named in honor of Chuck Robertson, a pioneer of junior hockey in the NAHL and youth hockey in the state of Michigan. Chuck Robertson was the owner of the Paddock Pool Saints when they won a record seven straight NAHL championships from 1976 to 1983.
As of the 2017–18 season
- 1976 – Detroit Little Caesars
- 1977 – Paddock Pool Saints
- 1978 – Paddock Pool Saints
- 1979 – Paddock Pool Saints
- 1980 – Paddock Pool Saints
- 1981 – Paddock Pool Saints
- 1982 – Paddock Pool Saints
- 1983 – Paddock Pool Saints
- 1984 – St. Clair Shores Falcons
- 1985 – St. Clair Shores Falcons
- 1986 – Compuware Ambassadors
- 1987 – Compuware Ambassadors
- 1988 – Compuware Ambassadors
- 1989 – Compuware Ambassadors
- 1990 – Compuware Ambassadors
- 1991 – Kalamazoo Jr. K Wings
- 1992 – Compuware Ambassadors
- 1993 – Kalamazoo Jr. K Wings
- 1994 – Compuware Ambassadors
- 1995 – Compuware Ambassadors
- 1996 – Springfield Jr. Blues
- 1997 – Springfield Jr. Blues
- 1998 – Compuware Ambassadors
- 1999 – Compuware Ambassadors
- 2000 – Danville Wings
- 2001 – Texas Tornado
- 2002 – Compuware Ambassadors
- 2003 – Pittsburgh Forge
- 2004 – Texas Tornado
- 2005 – Texas Tornado
- 2006 – Texas Tornado
- 2007 – St. Louis Bandits
- 2008 – St. Louis Bandits
- 2009 – St. Louis Bandits
- 2010 – Bismarck Bobcats
- 2011 – Fairbanks Ice Dogs
- 2012 – Texas Tornado
- 2013 – Amarillo Bulls
- 2014 – Fairbanks Ice Dogs
- 2015 – Minnesota Wilderness
- 2016 – Fairbanks Ice Dogs
- 2017 – Lone Star Brahmas
- 2018 – Shreveport Mudbugs
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- NAHL.com, Owatonna membership approved for 2008–09, May 19, 2008
- Startribune.com, Albert Lea awarded NAHL franchise, May 1, 2008
- Wenatchee World, Finally we have a hockey team, May 14, 2008
- NAHL.com, Fargo-Moorhead ceases operations, May 19, 2008
- NAHL.com, Jets touch down in Janesville, June 5, 2009
- NAHL.com, Zoldan, NAHL make a deal, August 13, 2009
- NAHL.com, NTDP to no longer compete in NAHL, February 26, 2008
- NAHL.com, Tornado to hit the ice again in 2009-10, April 29, 2009
- NAHL.com, Motor City changes nickname, logo, June 25, 2009
- NAHL.com, NAHL announces teams, alignment for 2014-15 season, May 14, 2014
- "Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights join NAHL in 2015-16 season". North American Hockey League (NAHL). Retrieved March 27, 2018.
- "Shreveport Mudbugs accepted into the NAHL for the 2016-17 season". OurSports Central. April 8, 2016.
- "Wildcats' season ends with 4-3 overtime loss". Times Record News. April 22, 2017.
- "NAHL team in Maryland to be called the Black Bears". NAHL.com. May 9, 2018.
- "Robertson Cup". NAHL. Retrieved March 17, 2015.