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Western States Hockey League
WshlLogo
Sport
Founded 1993
No. of teams 23
Country(ies) Flag of the United States United States
Most recent champion(s) El Paso Rhinos (2017-18)
Most championship(s) Phoenix Polar Bears (7)
Official website WSHL

Established in 1993, the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) is an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU)-sanctioned, junior ice hockey league. The WSHL was previously sanctioned by USA Hockey from 1994–2011.

As of the 2017-18 season, the league features 23 teams. The league mimics what players would experience at the collegiate level, operating as a UHU-sanctioned Tier II league.
Western States Shootout logo

The WSHL has had numerous teams attend and win the USA Hockey National Championship over the years and most recently, the El Paso Rhinos were crowned the United Hockey Union National Champions in 2014. The WSHL has had great success in moving players on to the college hockey ranks through the “Western States Shootout”, an annual all-league showcase held every December in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event averages in excess of 80 scouts in attendance, all of whom are looking to bolster their roster for the following season.

Teams Edit

(As of June 11, 2018)

Division Team City Arena Joined
Midwest
Dallas Snipers Euless, Texas Dr. Pepper StarCenter 2011
El Paso Rhinos El Paso, Texas Sierra Providence Event Center 2006
Oklahoma City Blazers Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Blazers Ice Centre 2014
Wichita Jr. Thunder Wichita, Kansas Wichita Ice Center 2012
Division Team City Arena Joined
Mountain
Cheyenne Stampede Cheyenne, Wyoming Cheyenne Ice and Events Center 2004
Northern Colorado Eagles Greeley, Colorado Greeley Ice Haus 2013
Ogden Mustangs Ogden, Utah The Ice Sheet 2002
Steamboat Wranglers Steamboat Springs, Colorado Howelsen Arena
Superior RoughRiders Superior, Colorado Bouler Valley Ice at Superior 2007
Utah Outliers West Valley City, Utah Acord Ice Center 2011
Division Team City Arena Joined
Western
Fresno Monsters Fresno, California Gateway Ice Center 2009
Long Beach Bombers Lakewood, California Lakewood Ice 1994
Ontario Avalanche Ontario, California The Center Ice Arena 2012
Phoenix Knights Gilbert, Arizona AZ Ice Gilbert 1999
San Diego Sabers Escondido, California Iceoplex Escondido 2001
Valencia Flyers Valencia, California Ice Station Valencia 2001
Division Team City Arena Joined
Northwest Bellingham Blazers Bellingham, Washington Bellingham Sportsplex 2016
Idaho IceCats McCall, Idaho Manchester Ice & Event Centre 2009
Seattle Totems Mountlake Terrace, Washington Olympic View Arena 2012
Southern Oregon Spartans Medford, Oregon The RRRink 2012
Tahoe Icemen South Lake Tahoe, California South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena 2012
West Sound Warriors Bremerton, Washington Bremerton Ice Center 2015

Thorne Cup Champions Edit

Most Championships: Phoenix Polar Bears/Phoenix Knights (7), Idaho Jr. Steelheads/Idaho IceCats (5), El Paso Rhinos (3), Ventura Mariners (3), Anaheim Junior Ducks/Long Beach Bombers (2), Flagstaff Mountaineers (2), Fort Worth Texans (1), Wichita Jr. Thunder (1)

League HistoryEdit

Full list of teams that have played in the WSHL.[1]
Bold = Current franchise


1994-95 Season - The first WSHL season consisted of six teams, spanning Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah, with all member clubs playing a 30 game schedule operating as Tier III Junior B teams. This was the only season where Don Thorne was the leagues' commissioner.

The six initial teams were the Anaheim Junior Ducks, Arizona Bandits, Las Vegas Junior Aces, San Jose Junior Sharks, Utah Lightning, and the Ventura Mariners.

The Anaheim Junior Ducks won the first-ever Thorne Cup Championship that year and is the only franchise from the inaugural season still in existence, now operating as the Long Beach Bombers.

1995-96 Season - The second WSHL season featured five teams playing a 32 game schedule. Current Commissioner Ron White took over operation of the WSHL prior to the season.

The Arizona Bandits went defunct after one season. The Las Vegas Junior Aces renamed themselves to the Las Vegas Junior Thunder.

The Anaheim Junior Ducks claimed the Thorne Cup for the 2nd consecutive year. The franchise, now known as the Long Beach Bombers, hasn't claimed a Thorne Cup since then, but has played for it in the 2017 and 2018 Thorne Cup Tournaments.

1996-97 Season - The third WSHL season featured six teams playing a 34 game schedule. The only team that stayed the exact same during the offseason was the Ventura Mariners.

The Las Vegas Junior Thunder went inactive this season while aiming to return in the 1997-98 WSHL Season, but never did so and went defunct. The San Jose Junior Sharks also went defunct.

The Anaheim Junior Ducks partnership with the Anaheim Ducks ended and they renamed themselves the Southern California Junior Bombers. The Utah Lightning changed names to the Utah Jr. Grizzles as a part of a new partnership with the AHL Utah Grizzlies.

Three new teams joined the league being the New Mexico Ice Breakers, the Flagstaff Mountaineers, and the Alaska Arctic Ice.

The Ventura Mariners finished in first place during the regular season with a 24-6-0-0 record and 48 points, but the second place Flagstaff Mountaineers won the Thorne Cup in their first year of existence.

1997-98 Season - The WSHL doubled in size in the offseason, growing to 12 teams. This led to the formation of a two division system. Overtime periods were removed this season.

The North Division consisted of 4 teams, all from the state of Alaska. These teams were the returning but renamed Alaska Arctic Dogs, and the newcomers Fairbanks Ice Dogs, Peninsula Hellfighters, and Sinbad Sailors. The North Division played a 36 game schedule that didn't feature any interdivisional games due to travel costs. The North Division team that won the Playoffs would receive an invitation to the Tier III-B Nationals.

The South Division consisted of the remaining 8 teams: each of the non-Alaskan teams, and three new teams being the Colorado Cougars, Las Vegas Bandits, and the Utah Valley Golden Eagles. The South Division played a 38 game schedule.

The Fairbanks Ice Dogs won the North Division with a 29-6-1 record and 59 points. The Flagstaff Mountaineers won the South Division with a 35-3-0 record and repeated as the Thorne Cup champion, although it is unsure how this was determined.

1998-99 Season - The fifth WSHL season featured 13 teams. The North Division played 32 games, while the South Division played 42 games (the only exception was the Flagstaff Mountaineers and the Nevada Gamblers, who played 41 games due to a game cancellation). The league reintroduced overtime this season. The top four teams in each division qualified for the playoffs.

The North Division added the leagues first Canadian team in the Yukon Claimjumpers. The Alaska Arctic Dogs changed their names back to the Alaska Arctic Ice, and the Peninsula Hellfighters renamed themselves the Peninsula Chinooks. The Fairbanks Ice Dogs finished the season 31-0-1, and went undefeated in the playoffs to capture back-to-back North Division championships.

The South Division saw the Las Vegas Bandits fold, but they were swiftly replaced by the Las Vegas Blackjacks and the Las Vegas-based Nevada Rattlers. The Colorado Cougars would go dormant for the season, but never returned and folded. The Southern California Junior Bombers suspended operations on October 28th, 1998 after going winless to start the season. The rest of their schedule was forfeited as they completed the leagues first winless record at 0-42-0.

The Ventura Mariners won the South Division Finals 2 games to 1 over the Utah Junior Grizzles. They were also awarded the Thorne Cup, although it is unsure how this was determined.

1999-00 Season - The sixth WSHL featured 12 teams across 2 divisions. This season is not correctly displayed on the WSHL's website, as it has cut out the North Division entirely. The North Division featured a 2 round Playoff system with 4 teams qualifying, while the south division featured a 3 round system with 6 teams qualify and the 1 and 2 seeds getting a first round bye.

The North Division had five teams, each playing 32 games. The Playoffs for the North Division had increased from a best of 3 game series to a best of 5. The Fairbanks Ice Dogs won their third consecutive division championship 3 games to 1 over the Sinbad Pirates.

The South Division had 7 teams playing anywhere between 33 and 36 games. The two-time champion Flagstaff Mountaineers folded before the season. The league struggled again to keep a team in Las Vegas, as both the Las Vegas Blackjacks and the Nevada Rattlers went defunct. They were replaced by the Las Vegas Goldminers. The Southern California Junior Bombers rejoined the league, but renamed themselves to the Bay City Bombers. The Phoenix Polar Bears joined the WSHL this year. Ventura Mariners completed the leagues first undefeated season, going 33-0-0 and undefeated in the playoffs. They won the South Division 2 games to 0 over the New Mexico Ice Breakers.

The Ventura Mariners won the Thorne Cup for the second year in a row, although again it is unknown how this was determined. They also went on to win the Tier III-B National Tournament.

2000-01 Season - The seventh WSHL season featured 7 teams playing a 42 game schedule (excluding the Ventura Mariners, who played 39 games). This season saw a 3 round playoff format with 5 teams qualifying and the 1 seed getting a bye straight to the finals.

This season saw all 5 Alaskan based teams leave the league, and the end of the two division system. The Las Vegas Goldminers continue the trend of failed Las Vegas teams that get replaced, as they are swiftly replaced by the Las Vegas Outlaws.

The Ventura Mariners won their third straight Thorne Cup by defeating the Phoenix Polar Bears in the finals.

2001-02 Season - The eighth WSHL season saw 7 teams play a 38 game schedule. The playoffs featured a three round system with the 1 seed receiving a bye into the Semi-Finals.

After three straight championships, the Ventura Mariners left the league. The New Mexico Ice Breakers and the Las Vegas Outlaws also went defunct. They were replaced by the San Diego Surf, Valencia Flyers and the Nevada Rattlers. The Utah Junior Grizzles changed names to the Salt Lake Maple Leafs.

The Phoenix Polar Bears won the Thorne Cup, and finished as the USA Hockey Junior B Runner-Up.

2002-03 Season - The ninth WSHL season saw 7 teams play a 38 game schedule.

The Utah Valley Golden Eagles went defunct, and were replaced by the Capital Thunder. The Salt Lake Maple Leafs changed their name back to the Utah Junior Grizzles.

The Phoenix Polar Bears had a perfect season at a total record of 47-0-0. They claimed the Thorne Cup and the Junior B National Championship.

2003-04 Season - The decade anniversary season of the WSHL saw only 5 teams play a 32 game schedule. The top 4 teams qualified for a 2 round playoff series.

The Nevada Rattlers go defunct, but the league doesn't choose to replace them this time, instead the WSHL begins to host the Western States Shootout tournament in its place, held every season in December. The Valencia Flyers sit out the season and return as the Valencia Vipers in the 2004-05 season.

The Phoenix Polar Bears win their third Thorne Cup in a row, tying the Ventura Mariners for most WSHL league championships.

2004-05 Season - The 11th WSHL Season featured 7 teams playing a 32 game schedule.

The Utah Jr. Grizzles go defunct, and the Capital Thunder decide to sit out the season. The league adds 4 teams in response, with the returning Valencia Vipers, and three new teams: the Dallas Titans, the Idaho Rattlers, and the Bazooka Blues.

The Phoenix Polar Bears captured their fourth straight Thorne Cup after finishing the season undefeated. They pass the Ventura Mariners for the most league titles, a record that they still hold.

2005-06 Season - The 12th WSHL season saw a lot of new teams, bringing the total up to 12 teams in 2 divisions. Each team had a 42 game schedule.

In a big offseason for the league, 5 new franchises joined the league: the Cajun Cathoulas, the Fort Worth Texans, the Peoria Coyotes, the San Antonio Diablos, and the Dallas Hawks. The only team to leave the league in the offseason was the Dallas Titans, but it is believed that the Hawks are a continuation of the franchise. The Capital Thunder also rejoined the league.

In a surprising upset, the Fort Worth Texans defeated the Phoenix Polar Bears in the Thorne Cup finals. The Texans claimed their first Thorne Cup, becoming the third team to do it in their first season of play.

2006-07 Season - The 13th WSHL season saw 13 teams play 44-47 games. The top 4 teams in each division advanced to the playoffs.

The defending champion Fort Worth Texans folded just weeks after winning their championship, becoming the second team to leave the league after winning a Thorne Cup in the previous season. The Bazooka Blues moved in the off-season and became the Tulsa Rampage.

The league added three new teams, being the El Paso Rhinos, the Long Beach Bulldogs, and the Tuscon Tilt. After going 17-2 in 19 games, the Tilt folded mid-season. However, despite folding, the Tilt still finished 5th of the 8 teams in the Western division.

The Phoenix Polar Bears won their fifth Thorne Cup title after beating the newcomer El Paso Rhinos 2 games to 0 in the league finals.

2007-08 Season - The 14th WSHL season saw 11 teams play 51 games. This was also the first appearance of an All-WSHL Showcase team. The top 4 teams in each division advanced to the playoffs.

In 2007, the WSHL upgraded their league status from the Tier III Junior B level to Junior A to attract higher quality prospects.

The Long Beach Bulldogs and the Peoria Coyotes went defunct in the offseason. The league added the Colorado Outlaws.

The El Paso Rhinos won their first Thorne Cup by defeating the reigning champion Phoenix Polar Bears 2 games to 0 in the championship. Despite finishing 2nd in the league behind the Rhinos, the Polar Bears hosted the league championship this year, due to El Paso having had hosted it the year prior.

2008-09 Season - The 15th WSHL Season saw 11 teams play between 48-50 games.

The San Diego Surf changed names to the San Diego Gulls in the offseason, and the Cajun Cathoulas moved into Texas and became the Texas Renegades.

In their third finals match-up in a row, the Phoenix Polar Bears claimed their sixth Thorne Cup after defeating the El Paso Rhinos in what would be the final postseason matchup between the two juggernauts.

2009-10 Season - The 16th WSHL Season saw 13 teams play 49 games in the Western Division and 52 games in the Mid-West Division.

In the Mid-West, the Colorado Outlaws renamed themselves to the Boulder Junior Bison, the Texas Renegades moved to become the New Mexico Renegades, and the Dallas Hawks went defunct.

In the West division, three new teams, the Fresno Monsters, Idaho Jr. Steelheads, and Arizona Redhawks, joined the division. The Valencia Vipers changed names to the Valencia Flyers, and the Capital Thunder moved to Bakersfield and became the Bakersfield Jr. Condors. For the first time since 2001, the Phoenix Polar Bears were held out of first place in their division as they finished third behind Fresno and Idaho.

The Phoenix Polar Bears beat the Steelheads and Monsters to qualify for their 10 straight Thorne Cup finals. The Boulder Junior Bison upset the Rhinos in the semi-finals to qualify for their first ever Thorne Cup Finals. The Polar Bears defeated the Bison 2 games to 1 to claim their seventh Thorne Cup in franchise history.

2010-11 Season - The 2010-11 regular season featured 13 team playing a 46-52 game schedule. This was the leagues last year with USA hockey affiliation.

The San Antonio Diablos went defunct. The Texas Brahmas took their spot in the league.

The Idaho Jr. Steelheads claimed their first Thorne Cup after defeating the El Paso Rhinos in the league finals 2 games to 0.

2011-12 Season - In 2011, the league would join the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and dropped its USA Hockey sanctioning[1] leading to the loss of its most successful franchise, the Phoenix Polar Bears, while adding many new teams. After the WSHL's success without USA Hockey the United Hockey Union was formed under the AAU sanctioning along with the Northern States Hockey League (NSHL) and the Midwest Junior Hockey League (MWJHL). The UHU leagues continued to operate with Tier III Junior A player requirements.

The 2011-12 Season was also the first year that the WSHL held the Thorne Cup Tournament. The three division champions would qualify for the tournament with the hosting team receiving an automatic qualifier. If the division champion is also the host, the loser of the division finals qualifies as a division representative instead.

The Phoenix Polar Bears decided to fold after the leagues drop from USA Hockey. The team was successfully sold and shortly afterwards became the Phoenix Knights.

The Bakersfield Jr. Condors moved to Utah and became the Ogden Mustangs. The Tulsa Rampage moved to Wyoming and became the Cheyenne Stampede. The Bay City Bombers renamed themselves the Long Beach Bombers.

Three new teams joined the league in the offseason, being the Dallas Ice Jets, the Dallas Snipers, and the Park City Moose.

The El Paso Rhinos hosted the first ever Thorne Cup Finals Tournament, with the Fresno Monsters (West Division Champion), Idaho Jr. Steelheads (Mountain Division Champion), and the Dallas Ice Jets (Mid-West Division Representative) qualifying for the tournament. The Steelheads defeated the Ice Jets to win their second consecutive Thorne Cup.

2012-13 Season - The 2012-13 Regular season saw the leagues team count rise to 22 in the offseason. The teams played in 4 different divisions, each playing 46 games.

The Bay Area Seals, Wichita Jr. Thunder, Tulsa Jr. Oilers, Ontario Avalanche, Southern Oregon Spartans, and the Seattle Totems all joined the WSHL. The Park City Moose renamed themselves to the Salt Lake City Moose.

The Idaho Jr. Steelheads hosted the Thorne Cup tournament in an expanded format with 6 teams qualifying, being the 4 division champions, the hosting team, and a wildcard team with the most regular season points of the division finals round teams. The Fresno Monsters (West Division Champion), Bay Area Seals (Wildcard Team), Dallas Ice Jets (Mid-West Division Champion), El Paso Rhinos (Mountain Division Champion), and Southern Oregon Spartans (Pacific Division Representative) qualified for the tournament. The Steelheads beat the Seals 4-2 in the final to win their third straight Thorne Cup in front of their home crowd.

2013-14 Season - The 2013-14 regular season featured 24 teams in 4, 6 team divisions. Each team played 46 games.

Two new franchises were added to the WSHL, being the Colorado Jr. Eagles and the Missoula Maulers, with plans to add 6 more teams by the 2014-15 season. The Bay Area Seals moved to Lake Tahoe and became the Lake Tahoe Blue.

The 2014 Thorne Cup Tournament was hosted by the El Paso Rhinos, with the Fresno Monsters (Pacific Division Champion), Idaho Jr. Steelheads (Wildcard Team), Phoenix Knights (Mountain Division Champion), Ogden Mustangs (Northwest Division Champion), and Texas Brahmas (Mid-West Division Representative) qualifying. The Rhinos defeated the Steelheads in the finals 7-3 to claim their second Thorne Cup.

2014-15 Season - The 2014–15 regular season featured 28 teams competing across four divisions, all playing a 46-game regular season schedule, which mimics what players would experience at the collegiate level.

Hockey politics in Texas extended into the legal realm and resulted in the Polar Ice House closing its doors. This facility was the home arena of the Dallas Ice Jets and a new expansion franchise, the Texas Attack. With the loss of their ice rink both teams had to bow out of the 2014–15 season and there has been no announcement if the teams will return.

The league added the Casper Coyotes, Butte Cobras, Whitefish Wolverines, Las Vegas Storm, and the Colorado Evolution.

The San Diego Gulls announced they were changing their name to the San Diego Sabers to allow for the new American Hockey League team in town to take the San Diego Gulls moniker. The Boulder Junior Bison were purchased by the RoughRider Hockey Club and renamed the team to the Colorado RoughRiders. The Texas Brahmas left the WSHL and moved to the North American 3 Hockey League.

For the first time since the 2011-12 WSHL Season, the Thorne Cup Tournament was not held due to no teams having submitted an application to host it. The Thorne Cup Tournament would return in the 2016-17 WSHL Season when the Ogden Mustangs hosted the tournament.

The Idaho Jr. Steelheads won the Thorne Cup Finals Series 3 games to 1 over the El Paso Rhinos to win their fourth Thorne Cup in five years.

2015-16 Season - In 2015, the WSHL Board of Governors announced the approval of the league to start competing as a Tier II-level player league for a higher caliber of play beginning in the 2015–16 season. Prior to the announcement the only Tier II-level league in the United States was the North American Hockey League. As part of the approval to Tier II status, the Board of Governors also announced the formation of the Western Prospects League, a UHU approved Tier III development league for the WHL.[2]

On June 1, 2015 the league announced the addition of an expansion team to begin play for the 2015-16 season based in Vancouver, Washington, known as the Vancouver Rangers. The team has the same ownership group as the Lake Tahoe Blue, who had recently renamed themselves the Tahoe Icemen. The Arizona Redhawks shortened their name to just Arizona Hawks.

The Idaho Jr. Steelheads won their fifth Thorne Cup in six years by sweeping the Colorado Jr. Eagles 3 games to 0. The Jr. Steelheads went undefeated in the playoffs.

2016-17 Season - The 2016-17 Season featured 27 teams, each playing 52 games. This season also featured the return of the Thorne Cup Tournament, which was hosted by the Ogden Mustangs.

On April 28, 2016; the league added the Bellingham Blazers who had previously played in the North Pacific Hockey League. The Missoula Maulers folded in May of 2016 after a dispute with the arena management at the Glacier Ice Rink. On May 31, 2016 the league announced the addition of the Breckenridge Bucks formerly of the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League . The Bucks would later relocate to Vail, Colorado and be renamed the Vail Powder Hounds. They were removed from the league around November 10, 2016.

On June 18, 2016 it was announced for the 2016-17 season the Salt Lake City Moose would be renamed the Utah Outliers. The team would continue to play out of the Accord Ice Center.

In late September 2016 the league suspended the operations of the Whitefish Wolverines. The league also stated that the league was already working on new ownership for a team in the city to begin play for the 2017-18 season. The Colorado Evolution folded in early October 2016.

The Thorne Cup Tournament returned and was hosted by the Ogden Mustangs. The Colorado Jr. Eagles (Mountain Division Champion), Valencia Flyers (Wildcard Team), Long Beach Bombers (Pacific Division Champion), Idaho Jr. Steelheads (Northwest Division Champion), and the Wichita Jr. Thunder (Mid-West Division Champion) qualified for the tournament. The Thunder completed a perfect playoff run by defeating the Steelheads in the championship to claim their first ever Thorne Cup.

2017-18 Season - The 2017-18 season featured 23 teams, each playing 51 games.

On May 24, 2017 the Butte Cobras, who's ownership transferred to the Butte Amateur Hockey Association back in April acquired the North American 3 Hockey League franchise rights to the Glacier Nationals and withdrew from the WSHL to join the NA3HL.

The Tulsa Jr. Oilers announced their dormancy for the season, with plans to return for the 2018-19 Season.

The former Seattle Ravens of the United States Premier 3 Hockey League joined the league for the 2017-18 season as the Kent Ravens. However, the Ravens would never play a single game and folded just after the season began. The Las Vegas Storm also folded.

The Vancouver Rangers relocated to Bremerton, Washington and are renamed the West Sound Warriors for the 2017-18 season assuming the identity of the team that played in the United States Premier 3 Hockey League for the 2016-17 season.

On July 27, 2017 the Idaho Jr. Steelheads announced they were changing their name to the Idaho IceCats.

The Arizona Hawks folded sometime in early October 2017 after playing 3 games.

The El Paso Rhinos hosted the Thorne Cup Tournament, which featured the Ogden Mustangs (Mountain Division Champion), Idaho IceCats (Northwest Division Champion), Oklahoma City Blazers (Mid-West Division Representative), Long Beach Bombers (Pacific Division Champion), and the Utah Outliers (Wildcard Team). The Rhinos defeated the Mustangs in the final to claim their third Thorne Cup.

The 2018 off-season brought the addition of the Steamboat Wranglers from the defunct Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League. The West Sound Warriors and Springfield Express folded. The Colorado Jr. Eagles moved to Greeley, Colorado and were renamed the Northern Colorado Eagles.

League StaffEdit

  • Don Thorne - Chairman of the Board
  • Ron White - Commissioner/President
  • M.F. Schurman - Deputy Commissioner/Vice President
  • Laura Ellis - Secretary
  • Carl Brown - Director of Publicity
  • Arthur Kitano - Referee in Chief

ReferencesEdit

League Web Site Edit



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