The best things that happened in hockey this year

Despite us often getting accused of being too negative at this site, there were a lot of positive things that happened this past calendar year over the leagues and teams we cover here at Bus League Hockey.

We’re here to celebrate those moments, sagas, announcements, and whatever else we think was a good story this year, presented in no particular order, here we go!

Elmira joins the FHL

We said it on the day it happened, but the FHL getting Elmira was the biggest day in league history. And that certainly has held true to this point, with the Enforcers averaging over 2,800 fans per game, including over 4,000 at the home opener, setting a new FHL mark for single-game attendance.

It was a hockey starved region after the Jackals of the ECHL left town following the 2016-17 season, and hockey fans have come back in drove to support owner Robbie Nichols, who in addition to bringing hockey back to the city, has put a ton of time and work into First Arena to get it up to date.

We’ll see how attendance goes the rest of the season and into next year, but this has been an absolute slam dunk for the FHL and the city of Elmira.

Pro hockey continues in the Quad Cities

After having pro hockey for 22 seasons, dating back to 1995 and the UHL, the Quad Cities region in Iowa and Illinois were in danger of no long having hockey after it was announced that the Mallards would fold following the 2017-18 ECHL season.

Almost immediately after that news broke came rumors of leagues, the SPHL and USHL, wanting to put a team in the region to potentially fill the void left by the Mallards. Luckily for the region, local owners stepped up, and the Quad City Storm was born, joining the SPHL as the northern, and western-most team in the league.

They’ve averaged over 3,000 fans per game this year, including over 6,000 on opening night, and have helped the SPHL expand its footprint into some more traditional hockey markets. It’s been a great thing for the city and the SPHL to have them playing hockey.

Shreveport wins the NAHL Robertson Cup

After going without hockey sine 2011, the Bossier-Shreveport region got back into hockey in 2016 with the return of the Shreveport Mudbugs, the same name as the CHL team that won a title in its last year, but this time in the junior ranks, joining the NAHL’s South Division.

The team has been nothing but a success on and off the ice since returning, packing the stands inside the renovated George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum, and playing great hockey that culminated with a 2018 Robertson Cup thanks to a thrilling 2-1 win over the Minot Minotauros.

It’s been a great run for the Mudbugs, and hopefully their success leads to more teams in the south getting hockey that had pro teams before in the old CHL.

Shawn Adam Bednard joins the Marksmen

Since Shawn was little he dreamed of being a pro hockey announcer. While his friends played the NHL video games growing up, Shawn sat beside them and did the play-by-play for the games with hopes of making it to the big time.

Well all that hard work and practice paid off for him this summer when he was hired by the Fayetteville Marksmen of the SPHL to be their official voice on internet and radio broadcasts. The young Bednard has wowed SPHL fans with his sultry tones and enthusiasm for the game, and is surely on his way up the hockey announcing ranks.

Don’t forget where you got your start Shawn!

Watertown wins the Commissioner’s Cup

The Wolves finished second in the FHL regular season last year, but then got hot in the playoffs, taking down the heavily-favored, and regular season champion, Port Huron Prowlers 3-1 in the finals to become the first team in FHL history to win multiple Commissioner’s Cups.

Perhaps even more amazing, head coach Trevor Karasiewicz captured his THIRD title as a head coach, with his third different team, previously winning titles in Port Huron and Dayton.

The lesson: If you want to win a Commissioner’s Cup, probably hire him.

The Wolves could be in position to capture a third title this year, again sitting in second place.

Huntsville captures the President’s Cup in first ever challenge round format

Despite being the gold-standard for the SPHL in terms of attendance and fan base, it had been more than seven seasons since the Huntsville Havoc captured the SPHL’s ultimate prize.

Well the Havoc made two sorts of history, becoming the first team with the No. 4 seed in league history to capture the title, and becoming the first team to win the title under the SPHL’s Challenge Round format, where teams got to pick who they played.

Because of teams getting to pick who they played, rather than play the No. 5 seed Knoxville in the opening round, the Havoc got to play the No. 7 seed Mississippi River Kings (RIP), winning in the full three games, then beating the No. 2 seed Macon in three, and No. 1 seed Peoria, also in three.

NAHL East Division gets more stability

There were a couple of things that contributed to this, but the NAHL’s East Division is stronger, and more fair this year after adding a new team and moving another to a more supportive market.

The first was putting an expansion team just outside Baltimore named the Maryland Black Bears, who have been decent on the ice, but more importantly, got the division to an even six team, like every other division in the league.

Then the Philadelphia Rebels moved from Philadelphia where they played in front of tiny crowds, to Jamestown, New York, bringing quality hockey back to that region. They’ve been very good on the ice, sitting in second place, and have more than doubled attendance from Philadelphia, which, while still not great, is much better than it was.

Both of those things were much-needed out east for the NAHL, where aside from Johnstown, fan interest has been very low.

The Mentor Ice Breakers Logo

Mentor Ice Breakers

Seriously, just look at that thing. It’s great, and easily one of the best not just in the FHL, but in all of minor league hockey. Good colors, enough detail that it stands out, but simple enough that it doesn’t feel busy.

Bus League Hockey launches

Seriously, we had kicked around this idea for a while because some of our other posts about the FHL and SPHL on a different website did major traffic by that site’s standards, so we went ahead and started this site, hoping that interest would translate.

It’s done that and more, seriously, we can’t get over how many views we did this year after our start in May, and to see how many Likes and Follows we’ve gotten on social media is amazing.

But more than anything, to see our stuff get shared by the teams, coaches, and players is amazingly gratifying. To us, that means we must be doing something right, and we hope we can keep doing that for as long as you’ll allow us.

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