Commissioner Ron White and the Western States Hockey League are proud to announce the approval of three new member clubs that will join the Amateur Athletic Union sanctioned junior hockey league, that operates as part of the three-league United Hockey Union, for the 2014-2015 season.
Taking advantage of an ever-expanding hockey market and an exceptional talent pool of junior-aged talent in the state of Colorado, Century Invesco, an ownership group led by Vassiliy Larchenko, will operate a team out of Aurora, Colorado, a suburb just 10 miles east of Denver. The team, which will play out of the Century Invesco-owned Big Bear Ice Arena, will be the second WSHL expansion team to start-up in the Centennial State in less than a year and third member club in the state overall, along with the Colorado Jr. Eagles (Fort Collins) and Boulder Bison (Superior).
Larchenko, a hockey enthusiast originally from Ukraine, has enjoyed success while running his youth clubs under the AAU umbrella for a little over a year and had this to say about the opportunity to join the junior ranks, “The reason I bought and renovated Big Bear Ice Arena, just about five years ago, was to give kids an opportunity to play hockey, starting with mites and going all the way up. With a junior hockey team now playing in the building, it gives the youth an opportunity to go as high as they want.”
Larchenko felt it was a “no-brainer” to join the WSHL over other competing junior leagues because of Aurora\’s fit in the pre-existing footprint and the level of competition that comes with playing in the WSHL.
It\’s long been rumored that a Central Hockey League team would eventually call the City of Casper home but due to logistics and other factors, a move or expansion into the area hasn\’t been able to get off the ground.
The WSHL and an ownership group led by businessman Chad Parrish, who is well known for his successful chain of barbecue restaurants in the southwestern United States, jumped at the chance to bring a team to Wyoming\’s second biggest city. The team, which has already been named the “Casper Coyotes”, will be based out of the City of Casper Ice Arena.
A close friend of El Paso Rhinos owner/head coach Cory Herman, Parrish is very familiar with the WSHL and the direction the league is headed in and had this to say about his newest venture, “I\’ve been affiliated and worked with a number of the teams in the WSHL for a few years now and from the start, I\’ve always admired their focus on developing players and the synergy within.”
Parrish feels that the people of Casper will gravitate to the team immediately, “Casper has a thriving youth program that is committed to growing the sport and a junior team will help a city starved for a higher level. The small, hometown feel of Casper will be great for players coming from out of area, as well, as it will give them a neat place to live and play.”
The Coyotes will join the Cheyenne Stampede, who have enjoyed tremendous success over their three seasons playing 180 miles to the south, as the two WSHL teams operating in the state of Wyoming.
Former Central Hockey League standout Tyler Fleck had his Oklahoma City-based team approved at the WSHL league meetings in May of 2013 and has already named them the Jr. Blazers, after the now defunct CHL team he starred for over nine seasons.
Fleck, who also spent time in Tulsa during his playing days, another current WSHL city, knows the league very well, having serviced a number of teams with their apparel needs, through his company “Hard Nosed Apparel.”
The fan favorite had this to say about bringing a team back to Oklahoma\’s capital, “Oklahoma City was a Blazer hockey town before anything and people want it back. Reincarnating the Blazers name was a no-brainer and people are already excited to get involved.”
Fleck explained the reason why he chose the WSHL, “With WSHL teams already in Wichita and Tulsa, two teams the Blazers had great rivalries with when I played, it was a natural fit to pick Oklahoma City and bring junior hockey to the area for the first time.”
Commissioner Ron White, who took over leadership of the WSHL when it had just three member clubs, had this to say about another big step for the thriving league “Our growth steady growth has been built around attracting good partners and exceptional coaching and we have been extremely successful at that.” White continued, “Our business model and governance within the AAU/UHU has complimented the success of the ownership in the league and we look forward to a few more big announcements in the coming weeks.”
The three teams will all begin play in the fall, joining a minimum of 24 other member clubs in what will mark the fifth straight season of WSHL expansion.