The United States Hockey League is set for its first games on the East Coast as the 2013 USHL Atlantic Challenge begins on Friday, September 6th and continues through Sunday, September 8th in New Jersey. In addition to a full weekend of USHL and youth games, the League will also host the first Elite Player Development Forum on Saturday evening.
The Elite Player Development Forum will begin at 7:00 PM (EST), in the second-floor grand ballroom of the Sheraton Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The gathering, conducted in a "Town Hall" type setting, will feature an elite group of panelists from around the world of hockey, coming together to discuss the USHL and its place at the top of the education-based American development model. It will be open to all participants in the ongoing Challenge tournament, the USHL Member Clubs that are featured during the evenings, and all players, parents, coaches and friends of the surging East Coast hockey community.
Introducing the event and a member of the panel will be USHL President and Commissioner E.T. (Skip) Prince. The guest panelists reflect the very best of American hockey, from the sport's pinnacle, the NHL, represented by NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly; to USA Hockey, represented by John Vanbiesbrouck, the Vice President of the USA Hockey Junior Council and member of its Executive Committee; to the NCAA's Keith Allain, Head Coach of the 2013 NCAA Champion Yale Bulldogs; to the USHL, which will be represented by Cary Eades, Head Coach/General Manager of the Sioux Falls Stampede, P.K. O’Handley, Head Coach/General Manager of the Waterloo Black Hawks, Brad Kwong, Managing Director and part-owner of the Dubuque Fighting Saints, and decorated USHL alumni Chris Ferraro and Peter Ferraro who are part of the Muskegon Lumberjacks ownership group.
The Forum's host brings yet more NHL and hockey luster to the event, as Joe Micheletti, a NHL veteran of the St. Louis Blues and current hockey reporter and television analyst for NHL game broadcasts, will bring audience questions to the panelists.
The Forum will also be broadcast live and for free via FASTHockey, the USHL’s online broadcast partner, providing both a regional and national audience for the first of its kind event.
"The presence of some of the most significant names in hockey at the USHL event is a testament to the growing commitment of U.S. hockey at all levels to the American Development Model," said USHL President and Commissioner Skip Prince. "What will be represented on the stage tomorrow is a direct reflection of that path – from USA Hockey-managed youth hockey, to the junior ranks and, for the very best of North America and the world, the USHL, to top-tier NCAA programs, to success in the world after college – which for many of our young stars, the National Hockey League. We're privileged to be part of the process, and part of the solution."
Elite Player Development Forum Panelists
E.T. (Skip) Prince, USHL President and Commissioner
Since joining the USHL in 2008, Prince has spearheaded the growth of the League from 12 Member Clubs to its current form of 17 organizations, in addition to leading a reorganized relationship with USA Hockey. The League continues to progress in multiple areas of business and hockey under his leadership. Prince has a wealth of experience and knowledge as a long-time sports executive which included nine years as a vice president with the NHL offices.
Bill Daly, Deputy Commissioner of the NHL
An executive with the NHL since 1996, Daly has been a key figure in the growth of the NHL. He has taken a lead role in administering and negotiating the collective bargaining agreement between the league and NHL Players’ Association, as well as overseeing multiple legal and business matters for the league.
John Vanbiesbrouck, Vice President of USA Hockey Junior Council
The veteran goaltender of 19 NHL seasons was inducted to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007. He represented USA internationally over several years at the IIHF World Championship and on the 1998 Olympic team. He has led the USA Hockey Junior Council for the last two years and is part of the management team for the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks.
Keith Allain, Head Coach of Yale University Bulldogs
Entering his eighth season at Yale, Allain has won 138 games during his time with the Bulldogs, including the school’s first national championship in 2013. He has led the school to four NCAA tournament appearances and two ECAC regular season titles to go along with two ECAC tournament titles. The former goaltender won 31 games as a player at Yale, fourth-most in school history.
Cary Eades, Head Coach/GM of Sioux Falls Stampede
The 2012-13 USHL Coach of the Year led the Stampede to the largest turnaround in USHL history in his first season behind the bench as the team accumulated 51 more points in the standing than the previous year. Previously, Eades had a lengthy tenure coaching at the collegiate level for the University of North Dakota.
P.K. O’Handley, Head Coach/GM of Waterloo Black Hawks
The “dean” of USHL bench bosses has coached over 1,000 games, the most in League history, and is just one of four to accumulate 500 victories in his USHL career. He enters his 12th season with the Waterloo Black Hawks and 19th overall in the League. In addition to developing hundreds of players NCAA hockey, O’Handley has coached a number of players that have reached the NHL. He also serves as the Chair of the USHL General Managers.
Brad Kwong, Managing Director of Dubuque Fighting Saints
The former Harvard University hockey player helped bring USHL hockey back to Dubuque in 2010 and has been a leader for an organization that has won two Clark Cups over the past three seasons. His professional experience includes at the executive level for the NHL offices, and he is currently in a lead role for Harbinger Capital Partners in New York.
Chris Ferraro and Peter Ferraro, USHL alumni and Muskegon Lumberjacks part-owners
Two of the most decorated alumni in USHL history, the Ferraro brothers lit up USHL scoreboards over their two seasons in the League (1990-92) before being selected by the New York Rangers in the 1992 NHL Draft. They went on to win a NCAA championship at the University of Maine before their professional playing careers. They currently operate hockey and training businesses in the New York region and recently returned the USHL as part of the Muskegon Lumberjacks new ownership.
Featuring six USHL Member Clubs, three each from the Eastern and Western Conference, the USHL Atlantic Challenge is the first time the League has played games in the East, and the largest showcase of USHL talent outside the Midwest in League history.
The USHL Atlantic Challenge is being hosted by highly respected and successful East Coast-based youth and junior hockey organizations – the Long Island Gulls, New York Bobcats, and North Jersey Avalanche. The schedule of nine USHL preseason games highlight three days of play of the Atlantic Challenge invitational tournament for some of the region’s top under-14, under-16, under-18, and junior teams.
USHL Eastern Conference teams participating include the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, Muskegon Lumberjacks, and Youngstown Phantoms, while the Western Conference will be represented by the Sioux City Musketeers, Sioux Falls Stampede, and Waterloo Black Hawks.
USHL games will be played at two different facilities in New Jersey. The Ice House, a four-surface facility in Hackensack and home to the North Jersey Avalanche, will host a pair of games, while the Codey Arena at South Mountain, the two-sheet arena in West Orange and former practice home of the New Jersey Devils, will host the remaining seven games in the Challenge schedule.
For more information on the event, visit www.ushlatlantichallenge.com
All USHL contests can be viewed live or on-demand via FASTHockey, the League’s broadband broadcast partner, and all live scoring can be viewed on the USHL Scoreboard powered by Pointstreak.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)