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 one of 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.
|North American Hockey League|
|No. of teams||24|
|Shreveport Mudbugs (1st title)|
|Most titles||Compuware Ambassadors (11)|
The 2018–19 season has 24 teams playing in 4 divisions:
|Central||Aberdeen Wings||Aberdeen, South Dakota||Odde Ice Center||2010|
|Austin Bruins||Austin, Minnesota||Riverside Arena||2010|
|Bismarck Bobcats||Bismarck, North Dakota||V.F.W. Sports Center||1997||2003|
|Brookings Blizzard||Brookings, South Dakota||Larson Ice Center||2003*|
|Minnesota Wilderness||Cloquet, Minnesota||Northwoods Credit Union Arena||2003*|
|Minot Minotauros||Minot, North Dakota||Maysa Arena||2011|
|East||Jamestown Rebels||Jamestown, New York||Northwest Arena||2008*|
|Johnstown Tomahawks||Johnstown, Pennsylvania||Cambria County War Memorial Arena||1990*|
|Maryland Black Bears||Odenton, Maryland||Piney Orchard Ice Arena||2018|
|New Jersey Titans||Middletown, New Jersey||Middletown Ice World Arena||2005*|
|Northeast Generals||Attleboro, Massachusetts||New England Sports Village||2016|
|Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights||Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania||Revolution Ice Center||2010*|
|Midwest||Chippewa Steel||Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin||Chippewa Area Ice Arena||2005*|
|Fairbanks Ice Dogs||Fairbanks, Alaska||Big Dipper Ice Arena||1997||2003|
|Janesville Jets||Janesville, Wisconsin||Janesville Ice Arena||2009|
|Kenai River Brown Bears||Soldotna, Alaska||Soldotna Sports Center||2007|
|Minnesota Magicians||Richfield, Minnesota||Richfield Ice Arena||2010*|
|Springfield Jr. Blues||Springfield, Illinois||Nelson Center||1993|
|South||Amarillo Bulls||Amarillo, Texas||Amarillo Civic Center||2008*|
|Corpus Christi IceRays||Corpus Christi, Texas||American Bank Center||2001*|
|Lone Star Brahmas||North Richland Hills, Texas||NYTEX Sports Centre||1999*|
|Odessa Jackalopes||Odessa, Texas||Ector County Coliseum||2008*|
|Shreveport Mudbugs||Shreveport, Louisiana||Hirsch Memorial Coliseum||2016|
|Topeka Pilots||Topeka, Kansas||Landon Arena||2003*|
Note: An asterisk (*) denotes a franchise relocation. See respective team articles from more information.
|East||Maine Nordiques||Lewiston, Maine||Androscoggin Bank Colisée||2019|
|South||New Mexico Ice Wolves||Albuquerque, New Mexico||Outpost Ice Arenas||2019|
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.
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
The Aberdeen Wings are a Tier II junior ice hockey team based out of Aberdeen, South Dakota that began play for 2010–11. A member of the North American Hockey League in the Central Division, the Wings play their home games in the Odde Ice Center.Amarillo Bulls
The Amarillo Bulls are a Tier II junior ice hockey team based in Amarillo, Texas. A member of the North American Hockey League's South Division, the team plays its home games in the Amarillo Civic Center.Austin Bruins
The Austin Bruins are a Tier II junior ice hockey team in the North American Hockey League's Central Division. The Bruins play their home games in the Riverside Arena in Austin, Minnesota.Chippewa Steel
The Chippewa Steel is a Tier II junior ice hockey team based in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, that plays in the North American Hockey League (NAHL).Corpus Christi IceRays
This article is about the current Corpus Christi IceRays NAHL franchise. For the original WPHL/CHL franchise of same name, see: Corpus Christi IceRays (1998–2010).The Corpus Christi IceRays are a Tier II junior ice hockey team playing in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The IceRays are based in Corpus Christi, Texas, and play in the North American Hockey League's South Division. The "IceRays" moniker derives from the many different species of stingrays that inhabit the nearby Gulf of Mexico.Erie Blades
The Erie Blades name was used by two professional ice hockey teams in Erie, Pennsylvania. Both teams played their home games in the Erie County Field House. After the second Blades team folded, the void was filled by the Erie Golden Blades, a team in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League from 1982 to 1987. They changed the colors from Orange and Black to Gold and Blue with the name change.Jamestown Rebels
The Jamestown Rebels are a Tier II junior ice hockey team playing in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The team is based in Jamestown, New York, and play their home games at Northwest Arena.Janesville Jets
The Janesville Jets are a Tier II junior ice hockey team in the North American Hockey League. Based in Janesville, Wisconsin, their home games are played at the Janesville Ice Arena.Johnstown Tomahawks
The Johnstown Tomahawks are a Tier II junior ice hockey team in the North American Hockey League's East Division. The team plays its home games at the 1st Summit Bank Arena at Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.Keystone Ice Miners
The Keystone Ice Miners were a Junior A Tier II ice hockey team based at The Ice Mine arena in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. The team moved to Connellsville in May 2014; prior to the move, the team was known as the Port Huron Fighting Falcons.Lone Star Brahmas
The Lone Star Brahmas are a Tier II junior ice hockey team in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) based in North Richland Hills, Texas (a suburb of Fort Worth). The Brahmas play their home games at the NYTEX Sports Centre.
The Brahmas nickname is a tribute to the Fort Worth Brahmas of the Central Hockey League, which played their final six seasons (most notably winning the 2009 Ray Miron President's Cup championship) at the NYTEX Sports Centre.
The Brahmas most recently won the 2017 Robertson Cup.Maryland Black Bears
The Maryland Black Bears are a Tier II junior ice hockey team in the North American Hockey League's East Division. The Black Bears play their home games in the Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, Maryland. Founded in 2018, the Black Bears are the first team in the 42-year history of the NAHL to be based out of Maryland.Playing on the NHL-sized sheet of ice at the Piney Orchard Ice Arena, a former training center of the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the Black Bears' organization has exclusive use of over 7,000 square feet of space for locker rooms, training and equipment, offices, and workout areas. The organization also launched a team in the Tier III Eastern Hockey League, called Team Maryland, and several youth teams in the 2018–19 season, while also purchasing an ownership stake in the Tier I United States Hockey League's Youngstown Phantoms.The Black Bears played their inaugural game on September 14, 2018 at Piney Orchard, losing 6–3 to the New Jersey Titans.Minnesota Magicians
The Minnesota Magicians are a Tier II junior ice hockey team in the North American Hockey League's Midwest Division. Based in Richfield, Minnesota, the Magicians play their home games at Richfield Ice Arena. The Magicians are the only Tier II junior hockey team in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metro area.Minnesota Wilderness
The Minnesota Wilderness are an American Tier II junior ice hockey team based in Cloquet, Minnesota, and play in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The organization formerly fielded teams in the Canada-based Junior A Superior International Junior Hockey League for three seasons and in the American-based Tier III Minnesota Junior Hockey League.
Prior to the 2013–14 season, the Wilderness' owners bought the franchise rights to the St. Louis Bandits of the Tier II North American Hockey League and began play for that season.North American Hockey League (1973–1977)
The North American Hockey League was a low-level minor professional hockey league that existed from 1973 to 1977. Several of the NAHL teams operated as developmental ("farm") teams for World Hockey Association franchises. The NAHL was one of two leagues, along with the Southern Hockey League, that were formed after the Eastern Hockey League ceased operations in 1973. The Lockhart Cup was the league's championship trophy. With the loss of a number of franchises, the NAHL elected to fold in September 1977.The league served as the inspiration for the film Slap Shot. Ned Dowd, who played for the Johnstown Jets, was the brother of the film's screenwriter, Nancy Dowd. Ned played for Johnstown during a season where the team was for sale, when his sister came to live in Johnstown and was inspired to write the screenplay. The film contains references to "Syracuse" and "Broome County", which were teams in the NAHL. Some of the incidents depicted actually occurred in actual NAHL games with the Johnstown Jets and the Carlson brothers, who inspired the characters, the Hanson Brothers).Odessa Jackalopes
This article is about the current Odessa Jackalopes of the NAHL. For the original WPHL/CHL franchise of same name, see: Odessa Jackalopes (1997–2011).The Odessa Jackalopes are a Tier II junior ice hockey team playing in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The team is based in Odessa, Texas and plays their home games at Ector County Coliseum. Jackalopes games are broadcast on the radio on Classic Rock 102 or HockeyTV.comTopeka Pilots
The Topeka Pilots are a Tier II junior ice hockey team in the North American Hockey League's South Division. The team's home arena is the 7,773-seat Landon Arena in Topeka, Kansas.Wenatchee Wild
The Wenatchee Wild is a Junior A ice hockey team in the British Columbia Hockey League. The team plays its home games at the 4,300-seat Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee, Washington. Initially, the team was part of the North American Hockey League, joining as an expansion club for the 2008–09 season, and in that time they were well known for their rivalry with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. The Wild moved to the BCHL for 2015–16, after seeking approval from both Hockey Canada and USA Hockey for three years.Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights are a USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier II junior ice hockey team from Pittston, Pennsylvania. In 2015, the Knights' junior hockey organization purchased the dormant Dawson Creek Rage franchise in the Tier II North American Hockey League (NAHL) and placed their Tier III franchise in the Eastern Hockey League into dormancy.
The players, ages 16–20, carry amateur status under Junior A guidelines and hope to earn a spot on higher level of junior hockey teams in the United States and Canada, Canadian Major Junior teams, Collegiate teams, and eventually professional teams.
North American Hockey League
Junior ice hockey leagues in North America
|Canadian Hockey League|
|United Hockey Union|