Games played in empty arenas. League and team social media accounts disappearing. Then reappearing under different names. Absolutely no stats or updates on games.
And that’s just the stuff we know is going on with the USACHL.
The newest free-to-play junior league has gotten off to, let’s just say, rough, start. Which was kind of expected when they had to add a fourth team at the 11th hour just to be able to play a 48-game schedule with four teams.
There were rumors that only a handful of players showed up to prospect camps before the season started, and then on opening night, fan and media reports that teams only had about 15 players on the rosters, well short of the usual 18 or 20 that teams like to have for a game.
Since then, some games being cancelled or postponed for various reasons, and then this past weekend, red flags went up in the minds of fans and media after the league and two teams had their Facebook pages go the way of the Dodo, then all of the Twitter accounts associated with the league disappeared.
Then they all reappeared, but none of them have profile pictures or any sort of info, and are only following the league and other teams. Even the league page has only one extra follow, a sports reporter in Laredo.
The league’s main twitter account went from being @USACHL to @USJuniorHockey, the second time that handle has changed since this summer. It still has all the old followers from when it was the Interstate Hockey League account, and then as the USACHL account, us included, but all the tweets that were previously posted are gone.
How do we know this is the third version of this account? Because way back in June we messaged that account when it was the league account for the IHL, an attempted up-start, full-contact adult league that was set to take the ice this fall, but had its start pushed back to 2019 instead.
And then in July we messaged the account when it was still the USACHL account, asking about a rumor we had heard regarding a possible expansion team in Dodge City, Kansas, and never heard back. You can see all of those exchanges, dating back to the IHL talk in June, then our question about the USACHL in July, below.
As for the on-ice product, we have no idea. None. The schedule the league released has been more like guidelines, because looking at it, each team should have played eight games so far. That hasn’t been the case as we know one weekend series was cancelled due to a reported water main break, and then a big /shrug/ on a couple other games.
Not only that, but the league’s stats and standings page, hosted on something called MyStatsOnline.com, are completely gone. Nothing. No idea who is on which roster, who has scored how many goals, or even what team’s records are. Not one scrap of that information is available through the league and its website, or any of its team sites.
According to LMT Online, really the only local news outlet we’ve been able to find info about the teams and games, the Texas Lawmen are undefeated at 4-0, the Laredo Bucks are winless at 0-4, the Wichita Falls Force are 2-3, and the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees are big ol’ question mark. So teams have played roughly half of the scheduled eight games they’ve played.
Oh, and Sunday’s game between Laredo and the Texas Lawmen was moved from McAllen to State Farm Arena in Hidaldo due to reported poor ice conditions. Oh, and no fans were allowed inside after the game was moved up to an 11am start, and the league wasn’t able to promote the game, or get staff for the game because there was ANOTHER game at the same rink later in the day.
When you have people finding our website by searching the term, “USACHL folding” a topic we have never written about here, you know things are getting bad.
Add it all up, and it doesn’t look good at all, or give the best impression to potential players, fans, coaches, sponsors, and whoever else may want to support hockey in these towns.
The next games are scheduled for this weekend with Wichita Falls hosting Laredo for three games, and the Texas Lawmwn hosting RGV for a pair. We will see if those games happen.
From the start we said two things about this league: It was a potentially great idea, because the last thing the world needed was another pay-to-play junior league, and by making this league free to play, they legit had a good idea and a place where people in the central and western parts of the country could play and potentially get exposure.
But also that they had an uphill climb, because they were starting so late, and that the strategy for getting players seemed to be, poach from the NA3HL or other pay-to-play leagues, and hope that you scoop up some cuts from the NAHL. Not exactly the great hockey they were promising in the initial press releases on the league website back when it launched.
There’s also a ton of other rumors about other happenings regarding the league that we can’t confirm, but if you do some searching on Facebook or a couple other sites, you can read all about them and kind of get an idea of what coaches and players may be dealing with just five games in.
Again, this doesn’t mean the league is done and calling it quits already, but it really doesn’t look good on paper so far. We’ll keep you updated with any other news up information we get about the league and its teams going forward.