The four suspended clubs were in negotiations with NorPac to start and join another league in the region, according to Nationals owner Butch Kowalka. USA Hockey shot down the idea because they have a moratorium on starting any new leagues. The idea was tabled until 2012-2013 and the four teams were under contact to not pursue the new league until then.
“Those four teams went for it anyway,” Kowalka said.
The four teams are from Montana and are: Billings Bulls, Bozeman IceDogs, Helena Bighorns, and Missoula Maulers.
These clubs have decided to form their own league for the 2011-12 season and they are calling it the America West Hockey League (which used to be a Jr.A league that merged with the NAHL in 2003).
He said there are a lot of teams talking about leaving USA Hockey, partly due to insurance reasons. Still, he doesn’t understand why the four suspended teams didn’t wait out the one-year moratorium so they could legally pursue starting another league.
They're Tier III, it's pay to play no matter where you go. USAH is supposedly dropping the letter tags all together and goind with just the tiers. Tier I - USHL, Tier II - NAHL, Tier III - everyone else.
Interesting thing is the moratorium came after the teams made their presentation and people associated with the SAHL/EJHL South aren't happy because a USA Hockey higher up refused to allow them to present but allowed these teams to make their presentation.
The new league will supposedly be announced Monday and will have at least 6 teams. It's unclear whether or not it will be sanctioned. This leads me to believe it will be:
Butters said he can’t make an announcement about a new league until officials from the Bighorns, Bulls, Icedogs and Maulers iron out details at the USA Hockey Congress on June 8-11 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The AWHL will be comprised of teams in Montana and Wyoming and will begin play this October. The 6-team league will consist of the Billings Bulls, Bozeman Icedogs, Gillette Wild, Great Falls Americans, Helena Bighorns and Missoula Maulers.
The league will play a minimum of 44 games, which will include games against current Northern Pacific Hockey League (NORPAC) teams in Butte, Whitefish and Cody, WY as part of a separation settlement between the two leagues.
They probably recruit from everywhere, but you do realize Mike Butters has heavy heavy ties in LA, and in LA hockey right?
They do, a kid I played aganist in Texas played for them a few years back. In fact, a few others I played with and myself also were contacted by teams in that league. Good to see the league still up and running
What happened down there? back in 1997 the Ice dogs games were packed. Hockey was good to watch. Playing in crappy rinks now. Calling a thing Tier 3 Junior A is a polite way of telling someone they play junior C.