The United States Hockey League at its Mid-Winter Meetings in Muskegon, Michigan last week approved changes to its 2013-14 preseason schedule.
The USHL Fall Classic, which has traditionally hosted all USHL Member Clubs, will be deferred for one season as the League addresses both the need to expand the Fall Classic format and address issues related to its regular season start and end dates. The 2013-14 regular season, now tentatively set to open on Friday, September 20th, reflects an earlier start than in the League’s Tier 1 history (2002-present). The change, along with other scheduling adjustments, will reduce the need for regular season mid-week games and travel in 2013-14, and was decided upon by the USHL Board principally in the interest of player safety and academics as well as on-ice development. The revised schedule will reduce mid-week travel and missed school days by USHL players and cut down on the number of three-games-in-three nights series required by the current compacted schedule.
The earlier start date forced a scheduling conflict with the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa, which had hosted the USHL Fall Classic for the past six seasons. Rather than seek a one-year interim site for the event, the League has opted to create a bid opportunity to expand the Fall Classic format commencing in 2014-15, which will be open for bid to Sioux City, all other USHL Member Club sites, and interested third parties and sites as well.
“By no means are we leaving the Fall Classic behind,” said USHL President and Commissioner Skip Prince. “It has become an important part of the USHL culture, and evolved into the largest single gathering place for elite players, fans, National Hockey League and NCAA scouts in the world. The hiatus we’re taking here is to make it even bigger and better.”
The League has already begun preparations to schedule regional preseason events for September 2013, in order to provide game competition for teams and scouting opportunities for NHL and NCAA scouts. Events are being considered at locations both in and outside of the USHL’s current footprint and could potentially be expanded to include tournaments at the high school, bantam, and midget levels of hockey in addition to scheduled USHL games.
Dates and locations of preseason events will be announced at a later time – but Commissioner Prince noted specifically the League’s intent to place a regional event in Sioux City, time and facilities availability permitting. “The Musketeers and Sioux City have been the heart of the USHL Fall Classic and largely responsible for its success and growth. We count them as friends and partners, and want to make sure we enjoy a strong preseason event there.”
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)