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Tier II status
   The Ontario Avalanche Hockey Organization: Tier II status
WSHL has become a Tier II Hockey League
X.MA1.1432851034@aolThe United Hockey Union (UHU) is proud to announce that the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) will now be competing in North America as a Tier II hockey league in the Untied Hockey Union.  At their annual off-season League meeting, the WSHL Board of Governors voted in favor to accept and support the move to Tier II.   
Due to the elevated caliber of play that the League has experienced over the past 4 years, the WSHL Board of Governors felt that the move was natural progression for the continued advancement of the League and its players.  The Board of Governors simultaneously have announced the formation of the Western Prospects League (WPL), which the UHU has approved Tier III status for the 2015-2016 season.
Ron White, the president and commissioner of the WSHL, is excited about the opportunities this transition brings. “The League has grown in teams, exposure, and development and in caliber of play.   These advancements combined with the move to Tier II and the formation of the WPL are all elements that together will increase the caliber of play and further enhance the brand of the WSHL.”
Since its inaugural season in 1994, the Western States Hockey League has expanded to twenty-eight teams that span Texas, Washington, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada as well as becoming a well-known provider of hockey development internationally.  Each year, the League facilitates hockey for over 850 players, allowing them to develop the skills and character to play hockey at higher levels. 
 What is the immediate on-ice impact of the jump to Tier-ll play?
Most importantly, the continuation of the increased caliber of ice hockey played in the WSHL. There were other rule changes voted into effect, which will more greatly affect the on-ice product, to compliment the Tier-II status change. For instance:
a).  Rule change of 10 imports plus 2 veteran imports (a player that has played 10+ games in the WSHL, the year prior), that has changed to 12 imports plus 2 veteran imports, which will allow the teams to improve their level of competition, and more importantly, the lower-end teams will have the ability to add two more quality players. A huge part of the WSHL’s year-over-year success, has been the increase in international players. A quick look at recent years’ Top-20 Scorers will give you an idea of what the league is adding, with the new import rules. In what has become a very competitive market for junior teams in the United States, the WSHL’s import rule has allowed them to access international talent, which raises the level of competition not only on game day, but in every on and off-ice organized team activity. The league has featured dozens of players that have represented their countries in international competition, along many more that have played at the highest possible level of U18 or U20 hockey in their home country.
b.)  The WSHL voted to increase the regular season schedule from 46 to 52 games; another added bonus to the players. In fact, most teams did not significantly increase their player tuition, even though this will mean the ownership groups will be adding significant expensive for inter-division road trips.
c.)   The WSHL will expand its prospect league the "Western Prospects League" by adding teams to the already successful feeder program.   
How is it called Tier-ll and pay to play?
USA Hockey criteria indicates that the Tier-ll level is non-pay-to-play. However, in Canada several of the premier Tier-II leagues governed by the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) do in fact charge tuition or similar amounts for a player to participate.  Under the United Hockey Union, there is no specific guideline to this point. Under the current business model and modus operandi, the WSHL’s ownership groups are not in a financial position to allow for no player tuition. With the cost of travel and ice in 2015, player tuition is absolutely necessary to offer a quality program. Each team will now play 24 home games, 24 road games, in addition to 4 games at the Western States Hockey League's Las Vegas Showcase. The footprint of the WSHL includes the western half of the United States approximately 1.5 million square miles. Many of the WSHL venues only accommodate a few hundred spectators, and their fan base is not at a level to generate enough income to facilitate a “non-pay-to-play' business model, as of today. Thus, the WSHL will remain a pay-to-play league much like many of its Canadian neighbors.   In addition, the WSHL has made certain rule changes regarding collection of tuition, that are intended to spark league parity. The caliber of play, and the caliber of player, that the WSHL is currently showcasing, ignited the feeling for a need to recognize ourselves at a more appropriate level. This is not a one-year plan, it will be a process to deliver the undeniable title of Tier-ll hockey. To that point, the league, its owners, and staff, are all fully-committed to this exciting new mission.
What does Tier ll mean for the Ontario Avalanche Players?
Much like every top league (junior, pro, collegiate, etc.), the WSHL has to build upon their foundation. You cannot expect a Tier-lll league to develop into a Tier-ll caliber league, without making the necessary steps both developmentally and operationally. The WSHL is arguably the most progressive and growth-oriented junior league in the world. A glance at the history of the league in its 22-year existence is extremely eye-opening.  I can tell you the on-ice product, the business model, and the player advancement success has all increased exponentially. What this means for all players is being a part of a revolutionary change in the world of North American junior hockey. The WSHL has two main focal points behind this major transition, parity and player advancement/development. The other Tier-II leagues in North America will not be surpassed by the WSHL in 2015-2016; make no mistake about it. However, with only four import positions on each roster, and a business model of non-pay-to-play, it allows for the United Hockey Union and WSHL to take a bite out of this market, and provide a healthy alternative. The Ontario Avalanche Organization will continue to raise the bar each and every season and provide the right atmosphere for hockey development and now with the league’s new growth it is escalated because of our ability to sign a dozen top-end European players. For the players, this raises the level of competition every time they step on the ice, into the gym, or into a video review session. Moving forward, the WSHL will continue to grow, and make necessary adjustments to things like the import rule. Another talking point was the desire to incorporate younger players into our rosters. This type of player can greatly improve their development by playing with and against 20 year-olds that have donned their country’s national team sweater. As the league continues to grow, with more players advancing to higher levels of hockey, more scouts, both collegiate and professional, will be interested in the WSHL talented rosters.
How will the Ontario Avalanche change?
The Ontario Avalanche has taken huge steps towards providing a better on-ice product, along with enhanced benefits to the player including billeting, team transportation and equipment. Some of the areas in which we will focus, in relation to the status change will be game video, player advancement, scouting, staff budget, marketing, advertising and community / fan involvement. Game video review is a big part of team and player development. We will use this tool to showcase our player’s progress and advancement to the hockey world.
In Summary:
The Western States Hockey League has made a monumental change in its path and model. The move to Tier-ll will help the top teams elevate their already-high levels of on-ice product and business operations. Naturally, the concern was with the lower-end franchises. However, as a group of partners, the 28-teams felt that we could raise the level of competition, by focusing on rule changes to increase and ensure parity. The team owners feel that our league will provide another avenue for an age group that deserves every opportunity to develop and continue their playing careers.