REPORT: USPHL returning to Northern Indiana

Tier III Junior Hockey returns to the Hoosier State.

In a search for future expansion sites of the Federal Hockey League (“A” professional hockey), I stumbled upon the return of competitive hockey to one of Lake Michigan’s better small hockey markets.

Dyer, Indiana – a town 35 minutes from Chicago that’s no stranger to Junior/low-level professional hockey.

Here’s how we got here.

After confirming the Federal Hockey League and City of Mentor, Ohio had been in discussions of expansion, we discovered another feasible target site for the league’s expansion – the northwest Midwest.

Immediately, Rovitz & I believed that this was Chicago, especially considering Brand had ventured there during his initial expansion road trip that lead him to Battle Creek.

However, no rink realistically seemed viable for the FHL, and that area is DOMINATED by the NHL, AHL, USHL, and pretty much any hockey imaginable.

Not to mention, that (or any area of Chicagoland) is not a typical city size for the league.

We considered other midsize, 1500 seat rinks in the Northwestern Midwest. What should we stumble upon other than an arena and city that checked off every box AND used to house low-level professional hockey?

That was the Midwest Training and Ice Center in Dyer; a beautiful, multiplex facility with a press box, high stands, a full state-of-the-art training facility with saunas.

Photo Credit: Midwest Training & Ice Center
Photo(s) Credit: Midwest Training and Ice Center

Upon this suspicion, I reached out to the rink to see if any information regarding a discussion between the FHL and Midwest Training occurred. I connected with one of the rink’s marketing supervisors, Megan Anderson, and received information.

The response was rewarding, although admittedly unexpected.

“[Midwest Training and Ice Facility] will {have} a Junior Team in the USPHL,” said Anderson

“Our new hockey director is coming in next Tuesday, and we are having a big meeting to find out more about the junior team, summer camps, and enhancing our current program.”

Every year since 2008, a competitive franchise has played out of Midwest Training, with the Chi-Town Shooters (2008-2011) and Indiana Blizzard (2010-11) of the short-lived All-American [Professional] Hockey League both calling it home.

After professional hockey left town, in came the Illiana (mix of Illinois & Indiana) Blackbirds originally of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League (2011-2015) before transitioning to become a United States Premier Hockey League: Midwest Division member (2015-17).

The team folded before the 2017 season after owner and head coach Reid Simpson was named an assistant coach of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, and a coach could not be put in place in time.

The official announcement will come at a time when the USPHL Midwest needs it the most, after losing the Kalkaska (MI) Rhinos midseason, and the folding of the Traverse City North Stars prior to the 2017-18 season (coincidentally, the FHL looked at Traverse City for expansion next season) and the Alpena Flyers the season before.

Being a non-affiliated (with the USA Hockey governing body), pay-to-play Tier III Junior Hockey League, teams being created and folding is not surprising. Teams are either deep in the red, or at best slightly profitable.

Dyer, however, is an outstanding hockey market, and the USPHL Midwest is getting a desperately needed home-run returning Midwest Training to their repertoire.

This will prove to be an enviable landing for the league amongst both higher junior leagues and professional hockey leagues.


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