Multiple sources are reporting multiple teams are leaving the Minnesota Junior Hockey League — including the entire Central Division — for the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL).
Marquette head coach/general manager Kevin Shupenia said that the Royales will be one of the teams that jump to the USPHL.
“We want to be in the best league possible to provide the best opportunity possible for the players that come to Marquette. That’s the bottom line and this is how we will provide that,” Shupenia said.
Marquette Social Scene sent an email to the league’s media contact asking if the league had a statement regarding the departures, but did not receive a response before publication.
Despite the discourse between the MnJHL and multiple franchises over the last season, Shupenia stayed positive and focused on the benefits of the USPHL.
“The biggest thing is how professional and well run (the USPHL) is,” he said. “It is all about the hockey and the branding out there. It gets you excited about hockey again.”
The USPHL is the largest Tier III league in USA Hockey with 36 organizations across three age divisions. The junior division is then further divided into two subleagues and a premier league similar to certain European soccer leagues. Teams are mostly near the east coast from Maine to Florida.
They also host a large showcase for their teams to play different opponents in Boston every year — the dominant city in New England for college hockey.
“Players get to go in front of people looking for NCAA DI and DIII teams,” Shupenia explained. “That gets more exposure for our guys that no other league can provide.”
Joining the Royales in the USPHL will be their divisional rivals Illiana Blackbirds, Wisconsin Rapids River Kings, Tri City IceHawks, Wooster Oilers, St. Louis Frontenacs as well as the Crystal Lake Yellow Jackets and the Ft. Wayne Federals who were both dormant this season.
There will also be some great rivalries jumping over from the Minnesota Division.
The Ironwood Fighting Yoopers, Dells Ducks and Hudson Crusaders will leave the MnJHL. The Yoopers are the only other Tier III junior team in the U.P. while Marquette defeated both Dells and Hudson in last year’s championship tournament.
Conflicting reports are circulating about the Rochester Ice Hawks, the Steele County Blades and the Maple Grove Energy. It is expected that these three teams wish to stay in the MnJHL, but may not have the six teams required by USA Hockey to have a league.
There are mixed reports that the MN Owls and the Forest Lake Lakers could stay or go while no information was known of the dormant Northern Lights franchise.
The MnJHL was celebrating their 40th season before the reports of mass exodus happened. The league playoffs start this Friday around the league.