SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – The USHL has announced the schedule for its first Atlantic Challenge, to be played in New Jersey early next month. It is a move USHL officials hope will help show itself off to an area that may know little about the nation’s top junior league.
“This type of event is something that the USHL has been working on for quite some time and we are thrilled about the opportunity,” said league Director of Communications and Public Relations Brian Werger. “It is important for us to educate young players on what the USHL is all about and what it can offer them. Without USHL teams close to that region, it is a challenge for people in the region to fully appreciate the elite level of play, so we wanted to bring the action directly to them.”
Some of the games will be played at a four-sheet facility called the Ice House in Hackensack. The others will be played at Codey Arena on South Mountain, located in West Orange. That is a former training facility for the New Jersey Devils.
Representing the USHL will be Cedar Rapids, Youngstown and Muskegon from the Eastern Conference along with Western Conference teams Sioux City, Sioux Falls, and Waterloo.
Head Coach and General Manager Jay Varady of the Sioux City Musketeers is using the trip to help determine who is in and who may be out for his club when the regular season begins.
“The number one thing we are looking to accomplish with the trip is to make some final decisions on our roster for the upcoming season,” Varady said. “We have gone through two camps with the group and now it is time to evaluate our performance against other clubs in the league. “
Three East Coast youth and junior hockey organizations are hosting the event, which will also involve an invitational tournament for some of the region’s under-14, under-16, under-18, and junior teams. In addition, former USHL stars Chris and Peter Ferraro, and Ronald Friedman, now part-owners of the Muskegon Lumberjacks, were very involved in putting the event together.
Another part of the schedule of events for the Challenge is a Town Hall Meeting Saturday evening, September 7. Werger believes the session will answer questions players, parents, and others have about the USHL.
“We want to answer any questions people have, showcase our League from a hockey and business perspective, and clear up any misconceptions there may be about the USHL,” he said.
There was a time when few people outside the Upper Midwest even knew the USHL existed. When it became an all-junior circuit in 1979, nearly half of the teams were based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. It was tough to get any attention, since the Twin Cities was more interested in the Minnesota North Stars, University of Minnesota, and the strong high school hockey programs that existed.
Today, followers of the sport know what the USHL provides in skill develop.m. ent, the professional game presentation, and the promotion of players, staff, and officials to the NHL.
The USHL proudly boasts on its website that 223 alums play in the NHL, and over 300 players have commitments to move on to college hockey once their junior careers are done.
More and more, the hockey world is learning of the level of talent that exists in the USHL. The September Atlantic Challenge is a means to show more people why the league is the elite in junior hockey.
USHL Atlantic Challenge Game Schedule
Friday, Sept. 6
5:00 p.m. – Muskegon Lumberjacks vs. Waterloo Black Hawks (Codey Arena)
7:00 p.m. – Youngstown Phantoms vs. Sioux City Musketeers (Ice House)
8:00 p.m. – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders vs. Sioux Falls Stampede (Codey Arena)
Saturday, Sept. 7
12:30 p.m. – Sioux Falls Stampede vs. Youngstown Phantoms (Codey Arena)
2:00 p.m. – Waterloo Black Hawks vs. Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (Ice House)
3:30 p.m. – Sioux City Musketeers vs. Muskegon Lumberjacks (Codey Arena)
Sunday, Sept. 8
9:45 a.m. – Sioux City Musketeers vs. Waterloo Black Hawks (Codey Arena)
11:00 a.m. – Muskegon Lumberjacks vs. Sioux Falls Stampede (Codey Arena)
12:45 p.m. – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders vs. Youngstown Phantoms (Codey Arena)
Publisher’s Note: Pro Hockey News welcomes Bob Bakken to the PHN family.