Western States Hockey League

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Western States Hockey League
Sport Hockey
Founded 1993
Commissioner Ron White
No. of teams 23
Country United States
Most recent
Wichita Jr. Thunder (2016–17)
Most titles Phoenix Polar Bears (7)
Official website WSHL

Established in 1993, the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) is an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU)-sanctioned, junior ice hockey league. The WSHL was previously sanctioned by USA Hockey from 1994–2011.

The 2017–18 regular season features 23 teams competing across four divisions, all playing a 48-game regular season schedule, which mimics what players would experience at the collegiate level.


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 league was founded by Dr. Don Thorne and the Thorne Cup championship trophy was named in his recognition. 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[1] 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 (UHU) 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 operates similar to the Canadian Junior Hockey League's Junior "A" status and continues to charge player tuition to help pay for team travel expenses.[2]

The WSHL has had numerous teams participate and win the USA Hockey and UHU 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.


Division Team City Arena Joined
Midwest Dallas Snipers Euless, Texas Dr. Pepper StarCenter 2011
El Paso Rhinos El Paso, Texas Sierra Providence Events Center 2006
Oklahoma City Jr. Blazers Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Blazers Ice Centre 2014
Springfield Express Springfield, Missouri Mediacom Ice Park 2005
Wichita Jr. Thunder Wichita, Kansas Wichita Ice Center 2012
Mountain Casper Coyotes Casper, Wyoming Casper Ice Arena 2014
Cheyenne Stampede Cheyenne, Wyoming Cheyenne Ice and Events Center 2004
Colorado Jr. Eagles Fort Collins, Colorado NoCo Ice Center 2013
Ogden Mustangs Ogden, Utah The Ice Sheet 2002
Superior RoughRiders Superior, Colorado The Ice Ranch at Boulder Valley 2007
Utah Outliers West Valley City, Utah Acord Ice Center 2011
Western Fresno Monsters Fresno, California Gateway Ice Center 2009
Long Beach Bombers Lakewood, California The Rinks - Lakewood Ice 1994
Ontario Avalanche Ontario, California The Center Ice Arena 2012
Phoenix Knights Gilbert, Arizona AZ Ice Gilbert 1999
San Diego Sabers Escondido, California Iceoplex Escondido 2001
Valencia Flyers Valencia, California Ice Station Valencia 2001
Northwest Bellingham Blazers Bellingham, Washington Bellingham Sportsplex 2016
Idaho IceCats McCall, Idaho Manchester Ice & Event Centre 2009
Seattle Totems Mountlake Terrace, Washington Olympic View Arena 2012
Southern Oregon Spartans Medford, Oregon The RRRink 2012
Tahoe Icemen South Lake Tahoe, California South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena 2012
West Sound Warriors Bremerton, Washington Bremerton Ice Arena 2015


Season Thorne Cup champion Runner-up National Tournament result
1994–95 Anaheim Jr. Ducks
1995–96 Anaheim Jr. Ducks
1996–97 Flagstaff Mountaineers
1997–98[3] Flagstaff Mountaineers
1998–99 Ventura Mariners
1999–00 Ventura Mariners Tier III Junior B National Champions
2000–01 Ventura Mariners
2001–02 Phoenix Polar Bears Tier III Junior B National runner-up
2002–03[4] Phoenix Polar Bears Tier III Junior B National Champion
2003–04[5] Phoenix Polar Bears
2004–05[6] Phoenix Polar Bears
2005–06[7] Fort Worth Texans Phoenix Polar Bears
2006–07[8] Phoenix Polar Bears El Paso Rhinos
2007–08[9] El Paso Rhinos Phoenix Polar Bears
2008–09[10] Phoenix Polar Bears El Paso Rhinos
2009–10[11] Phoenix Polar Bears Boulder Bison
2010–11[12] Idaho Jr. Steelheads El Paso Rhinos Tier III Junior A National runner-up (Rhinos)
2011–12[13] Idaho Jr. Steelheads Dallas Ice Jets[14]
2012–13[15] Idaho Jr. Steelheads Bay Area Seals[16] UHU National Champion (Steelheads)
2013–14[17] El Paso Rhinos Idaho Jr. Steelheads[18] UHU National Champion (Rhinos)[19]
2014–15[20] Idaho Jr. Steelheads El Paso Rhinos No National Championship competed this year
2015–16 Idaho Jr. Steelheads Colorado Jr. Eagles
2016–17 Wichita Jr. Thunder Idaho Jr. Steelheads

Team history[edit]

Full list of teams that have played in the WSHL.[21]
Bold = Current franchise

League staff[edit]

  • Don Thorne - Chairman of the Board
  • Ron White - Commissioner/President
  • Bob Armando - Deputy Commissioner/Vice President
  • Bruce Miller - Director of Game Operations
  • Teri Talluto - Treasurer
  • Carol Grinstead - Secretary
  • Brent Maranto - Director of Communications
  • Arthur Kitano - Director of Officials
  • Roger Klein - Midwest Director of Officials

Western Prospects League[edit]

As part of the approval of the WSHL to Tier II status in 2015, the WSHL Board of Governors also announced the formation of the Western Prospects League (WPL), a United Hockey Union approved Tier III development league for the WSHL.[22] In its only season (2015–16), the WPL played with four Tier III prospect teams under Tier II organizations (the Casper Coyotes, Cheyenne Stampede, El Paso Rhinos, and Ogden Mustangs) with occasional games against non-WSHL affiliated teams.

In 2016, the UHU approved of two other Tier III leagues, the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League (CPJHL) and the National College Prospects Hockey League (NCPHL). Several of the WSHL organizations then announced affiliations with some of the NCPHL teams to act as a developmental team and the WPL appears to have been disbanded.

Western Prospects League Champions[edit]

Season WPL Champion Results
2015–16 Casper Coyotes Tier III 18–3–0–0


External links[edit]