The UHL Relaunch and Its Role in Minor League Hockey

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It was brought to my attention yesterday, to the request of no one, that the United Hockey League would be relaunching itself in the 2018-19 season. You may remember the UHL from 1997 until 2007 when it was a low-AA minor league coming from the ashes of the Colonial Hockey League from 1991 until 1997 and then smoldered into the reformed International Hockey League from 2007 until 2010.

Now, this was put out in August and really not much as come from it since, but it was brought about my virtual desk just yesterday. Since August 2nd, there hasn’t been one point made about it except that it’ll be a six-team league playing 50 games, also kind of the formula that the SPHL has put out there and been successful with.

The key thing to this whole league getting up there is the heads of this not trying to do above their means when it comes to where their place is at in minor league hockey. If they use the model of the SPHL, then they’ll be fine. They will be able to develop talent to push to the ECHL and beyond. Plus, if you’re thinking of how a minor league system is supposed to be– they could be the upper Midwest feeder to ECHL teams like how the SPHL is the southern (and somewhat Midwest with Peoria) feeder to the ECHL. If the Federal Hockey League could get their stuff together, they would be the Northeast feeder, but we know that’ll never happen.

Yet, I’m at the point now where I’m hoping and praying that this league doesn’t think it’s going to be a AA league again or try to go against the ECHL for another turn.

The structure of minor league hockey is, as it stands now, pretty solid. The AHL has the 30 teams (31 next year) to directly feed to the NHL, while the ECHL has 27 and may be thinking of other markets– but you hope they don’t spread themselves too thin with them spreading out across the US more and more. The SPHL is there, but they are a solid stepping stone with what could be the perfect model when it comes to budget, travel, salary cap, and all of that.

If the UHL is going to follow what the SPHL does– then great, it’s much needed in another facility to get players to the ECHL and give opportunities to players coming out college or juniors to play domestically rather than relying on overseas chances. However, if they feel like they’re going to be AA caliber off the bat or if they devolve into the Federal League kind of hockey– we’re in for a long ride.

Another option could be what the Central (1) Hockey League did with their reboot in that it’d be a Junior level league, though are plenty of NAHL and USHL near the Rochester, Michigan homebase the UHL is setting up for itself.

I have emailed the UHL’s for more information, but it was late Thursday when I did it and they have yet to respond as publishing of this post.

All in all, the point of this is for the UHL to know their role when it comes to minor league hockey. Figure out what you are, stick with it, and don’t get too big for your britches because for once the minor league hockey landscape is stable in its structure. Don’t mess it up.

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