Yesterday the Reno Ice Raiders announced their schedule for the 2022-23 season. In this post, I will be talking about that. I will also be talking about the state of the Mountain West Hockey League.
Last season the Ice Raiders did alright in the Mountain West Hockey League. There were no playoffs so a champion was not crowned.
The Reno Ice Raiders had a pretty successful season off the ice during 2021-22. They sold out the majority of their home games. This season the Ice Raiders are set to play in 25 games. 16 of those games are home games. There will be two exhibition games in September and one in October. The season will officially start on November 4th as the Ice Raiders host the Fire Department Of New York. They will finish the season in Las Vegas in April.
They did not play New York, Chicago, or Las Vegas last season. They are new teams for this season. A bunch of teams are missing from this season’s schedule. The Fort Worth/Texas Barracuda, Santa Rosa Growlers, Billings Blizzard, Calumet Wolverines, Fond du Lac Bears, Jackson Hole Moose, and McCall Mountaineers are all missing from the schedule.
The Fort Worth/Texas Barracuda joined a newly founded league in Texas. I know the Santa Rosa Growlers were forced to fold after their teams actions that led to the Ice Raiders refusing to play them. The Billings Blizzard announced they suspended operations a few weeks ago. The Calumet Wolverines and the Fond du Lac Bears are now in the Great Lakes Hockey League. The Jackson Hole Moose have not posted anything online since march so it is safe to assume that they ave ceased operations.
What about the Mountain West Hockey League? Where does that leave them? The Mountain West Hockey League did not have a playoff this last season which is a bad sign. They have also not posted on the league website or social media since July of 2021. Is it safe to assume the MWHL has folded? Yes. Can I confirm that? Not at this time. The MWHL hasn’t had a strong online presence in years. Often times the league has left their fans in the dark about what is going on. With multiple teams leaving or folding and Reno now playing teams outside of the mountain west region, It is safe to assume the MWHL is done.
What about the remaining teams? The way Senior-A hockey works is that teams set up their own games. Since this was already happening it leaves the remaining teams in a good position. At this point, they should just start a new league. Bring back the West Coast Hockey League. I think virtually anything is better than a league that keeps its fans in the dark.
How do I think Senior A hockey should be handled in the United States? I think USA Hockey should create a structure similar to NCAA Basketball. Regional conferences with up to 16 teams. Conference and national tournaments for the post-season. I think something like that would encourage a lot of growth at the Senior A level.
Since USA Hockey creating a better Senior A structure is not happening, What should the Mountain West Hockey League have done or do now? I think they should have modeled something after the United Soccer League. 16-team leagues. Multiple levels with Promotion and religion. Preseason should be league sanctioned tournaments. Play every team in your league in one home game and one away game. For the playoffs it should be a home and away series with an aggregate score. Eventually adding things like a US Open Cup and Champions League. I think this could happen by expanding to 16 teams then creating new leagues as the league expands. I think all of the teams should be from Colorado and west. Like travel hockey, have teams pay an annual fee and extra fee for expansion teams.
How could the MWHL expand? Well, first it needs to fix its public relations issues. They need to post just as much as leagues like the NHL. If it can not fix those issues, the teams need to create a new league. If it can fix those issues, it should expand to every possible western market. I would market the league as an adult travel league basically. Market it to NHL and AHL teams as a way to expand their brand. Market it to ECHL teams as a way to create their own reserve or minor league teams. Market it to small arenas and ice rinks as a way to bring in extra revenue. Market it to travel, junior, and college teams as the next step for their players or to keep alumni players together. I do not think that the MWHL can continue long term in its current state.
What do I think should happen? I think the best thing long term would be for the remaining MWHL teams to create a new league. That league should model itself after what I have outlined on how to fix the MWHL. The only difference being the new league should have a long-term plan to create a pro-level that can compete with the ECHL. Once that level is established they should expand it to multiple leagues. Then their league pyramid should have multiple Senior A and pro leagues. That is just what I think. Let me know what you think the Ice Raiders and MWHL should do moving forward.