The USHL today announced significant changes to its 2013-14 preseason schedule, as it expands both its geographical reach and the opportunity for new audiences to see the USHL in action.
As it develops a new Fall Classic format, the League will introduce the "USHL Fall Classic Week" this September. The week will feature two regional preseason tournaments in the League's second preseason week.
Events commence with the USHL Fall Classic West, featuring all eight USHL Western Conference teams competing at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa on Wednesday, September 11th and Thursday, September 12th. For the previous six seasons, the Sioux City Musketeers had hosted the traditional USHL Fall Classic, an event which had included all USHL Member Clubs but has been deferred for the 2013 preseason.
“We are proud to be the host and honored to once again put on a wonderful preseason showcase for our fans and the community of Sioux City and have the best junior talent in the country from the Western Conference here in September,” said Rich Zaber, Executive Vice President of the Sioux City Musketeers.
Following the conclusion of the western event, the League's Eastern Conference teams will gather in Indianapolis, Indiana for the USHL Fall Classic East, hosted by the Indiana Ice. The Ice are organizing a youth tournament to run in parallel with the USHL games, featuring top regional talent that will have the opportunity to both compete and watch the USHL in action.
"The Indiana Ice want to thank the USHL and our Eastern Conference members for the opportunity to host the USHL Fall Classic East in Indianapolis," said Ice President Paul Skjodt. "The Ice and Indiana Jr. Ice youth program are also excited to partner with the League to showcase the event for youth hockey teams attending The Bigfoot Hockey Showcase over the same weekend."
All USHL teams will play a minimum of two games at their respective USHL Fall Classic Week events. The separate preseason events will provide exposure to NHL and NCAA scouts and help cultivate team preparations for the regular season while reducing the time and travel necessary for a full event that includes all 16 USHL Member Clubs.
A completely new event will inaugurate 2013 preseason play, as from September 6-8, a total of six USHL teams will travel to the East Coast to compete in the USHL Atlantic Challenge – the largest exhibition of USHL talent outside the Midwest in League history. Hosted by three well-respected Eastern youth and junior hockey organizations, the Long Island Gulls, New York Bobcats, and New Jersey Avalanche, the Challenge will also feature an invitational youth tournament for some of the region's top under-14, under-16, under-18, and junior teams.
The USHL Atlantic Challenge marks the first time that USHL teams will play games on the East Coast, a region that is sending an increasing number of players to the League. Participating teams and a full schedule for the event will be announced at a later date.
"Taken together, these three events by far represent our most ambitious undertaking to date in bringing the USHL to more fans, and more future USHL players," said USHL President and Commissioner Skip Prince. "Just as important, it provides a well-sequenced series of opportunities for the hundreds of NHL and NCAA scouts focusing on our players to see, benchmark, and assess our 'Class of 13-14'."
One of the venues for the USHL Atlantic Challenge has a particularly strong connection to the USHL - the new Ferraro Brothers Ice Center in East Meadow, New York, partly owned and operated by two of the League’s most-storied alumni – Chris Ferraro and Peter Ferraro. The twin brothers lit up scoreboards across the USHL during the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons. Playing for the Dubuque Fighting Saints, Chris led the League in scoring with 97 points (53g, 44a) in just 45 games in 1990–91, and earned USHL Forward of the Year. The following season, Peter led the USHL with 101 points – two more than Chris (49g, 50a) – in 42 games split between Dubuque and the Waterloo Black Hawks, capturing USHL Forward of the Year. Both were selected in the 1992 NHL Draft by the New York Rangers. Peter was chosen in the first round (24th overall) and Chris was selected in the fourth round (85th overall).
“The USHL meant a lot to my brother and I for the advancement of our careers on and off the ice and we are thrilled to host several teams right here in our hockey community,” said Peter Ferraro. “It will be a great opportunity to showcase the USHL brand in the East and we are proud to be part of this event.”
USHL games as well as youth invitational competition will also take place at The Ice House arena in Hackensack, New Jersey, a four-surface facility and home to the North Jersey Avalanche youth hockey organization.
“On behalf of the North Jersey Avalanche and the Ice House, we are excited to be part of the USHL coming east for this event,” said Dan May, Director of Hockey Operations for the Avalanche and Ice House. “This is an unprecedented opportunity for the entire Metropolitan area hockey community. I personally believe playing in the USHL is the best training for a young man who aspires to play Division 1 college hockey and these games will give people in this region a firsthand view of the USHL’s elite brand of hockey.”
"We could not have planned this without the support and generosity of the Gulls, Bobcats, and Avalanche," said Prince. "This gives us the opportunity to bring not just the USHL story, but the League itself, to hundreds of participating youth tournament players and the general public – many of them getting the opportunity to see the best junior hockey in North America for the first time.
Event organizers are also planning a Saturday, September 7th reception, USHL presentation and panel discussion featuring NHL, USHL, NCAA, and USA Hockey management and coaches.
A full schedule of teams and games for all USHL preseason events will be announced at a later date.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)