Unlike last year, there weren’t many rule changes that came out of the WSHL’s Annual League Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, but the information that did surface will have a big impact on the upcoming season.
With the influx of new teams (Butte Cobras, Casper Coyotes, Colorado Evolution, Las Vegas Storm, Oklahoma City Junior Blazers and Whitefish Wolverines) combined with the Texas Brahmas switching leagues, leaves the WSHL with 30 teams heading into the 2014-2015 season and a divisional realignment was needed to balance everything out:
Western (8): Arizona Redhawks, Fresno Monsters, Las Vegas Storm, Long Beach Bombers, Ontario Avalanche, Phoenix Knights, San Diego Gulls, Valencia Flyers
Mountain (7): Casper Coyotes, Cheyenne Stampede, Colorado Evolution, Colorado Junior Eagles, RoughRiders-Colorado (Formerly the Boulder Bison), Ogden Mustangs, Salt Lake City Moose
Midwest (8): Dallas Ice Jets, Dallas Snipers, El Paso Rhinos, Oklahoma City Junior Blazers, Springfield Express, (Formerly the New Mexico Renegades) Texas Attack (New team, more information coming soon), Tulsa Junior Oilers, Wichita Junior Thunder
Northwest (7): Butte Cobras, Idaho Junior Steelheads, Lake Tahoe Blue, Missoula Maulers, Seattle Totems, Southern Oregon Spartans, Whitefish Wolverines
Teams in the two eight-team divisions will face each divisional opponent six times (three at home and three on the road) for a total of 42 games, plus four inter-division clashes at the Western States Shootout in Las Vegas will make for a grand total of 46 regular season games.
Teams in the two seven-team divisions will face each divisional opponent six times (three at home and three on the road) for a total of just 32 games, so they will play two out of division series (one at home and one on the road) plus four games at the Showcase to get to a total of 46 regular season contests.
In the coming weeks, the Board of Governors will decide how to divide the four divisions into two conferences, as the Thorne Cup Playoffs will now be a true play down format, with four division winners playing down to two conference champions and eventually, a Thorne Cup Champion.
The top six teams in each division will qualify for the playoffs, with teams seeded #1 and #2 earning a bye into the division semi-finals, while #3 hosts #6 and #4 hosts #5 for the chance to move on.
Each division will then play two semi-final series, before playing down to a division champion. The four division champions will then play for the two conference championships, with those two teams moving on to face-off in the Thorne Cup Finals.
All series (divisional quarters, semi’s, finals and conference finals) will be of the best-of-three format, with the higher ranked team playing host, with the exception of the Thorne Cup Finals, which will be a best-of-five championship series, with each team getting a chance to play at home.
Outside of the realignment, the only other substantial item that came out of the meetings is a new rule from the United Hockey Union, in which North American players are no longer considered imports.
This means teams can have as many players as they’d like (within roster cap limits) from Canada, Mexico, the United States and U.S. Territories. They are still allowed 10 import spots for players not from North America (Asia, Europe, South America etc.) and that number is bumped to 12 if at least two of the imports on the roster finished the 2013-2014 season on the protected list of any UHU team.
So that’s it for now, be sure to stay tuned over the summer for more information, including conferences and possibly even more new teams.