Here’s to hockey without borders.
It is possible — if not probable — that teams from the Midwest Jr. Hockey League and the Canadian International Hockey League could be part of expanded interlocking play effective the 2015-2016 season.
Now in its third season of operation, MWJHL membership currently stands at seven teams — Detroit Fighting Irish, MC Monarchs, Michigan Ice Dogs, Traverse City Hounds, Alpena Flyers, Soo Firehawks and Decatur Blaze. All, with the exception of Illinois-based Decatur, are from Michigan.
The first-year CIHL currently operates with four teams — Batchewana Attack, Espanola Rivermen and Sudbury Royals from northern Ontario along with the northern Michigan-based Kalkaska Rhinos.
The MWJHL operates under the United Hockey Union as part of the Amateur Athletic Union.
The CIHL is the lone affiliate of the Canadian International Amateur Hockey Federation.
Teams from both leagues have met multiple times thus far this 2014-2015 season in exhibition and tournament play and more games are planned with the Fighting Irish of the MWJHL set to play host to an international showcase on February 6-7-8 that will feature entries from the CIHL.
To be sure, Fighting Irish coach-general manager Dan Vasquez and team owner Lisa Cruz are proponents of playing CIHL teams. Detroit has already played a number of games against Batchewana, Espanola and Kalkaska this season.
Yet to be determined is the status of the MWJHL and its member teams for next season.
At least two MWJHL members were part of a group of Michigan-based applicants that included teams from the Minnesota Jr. Hockey League that recently applied to USA Hockey to join the United States Premiere Hockey League, which is based along the Eastern Seaboard.
While USA Hockey has turned down the initial proposal, multiple sources close to the situation say the matter has yet to be fully resolved though it should be — one way or another — by early February.
The MnJHL and the USPHL both operate under the USA Hockey umbrella.
As to the future of the MWJHL, sources are saying that it is uncertain whether the league will remain under the umbrella of the UHU-AAU or make a move to USA Hockey for next season.
Additionally, at least two MWJHL teams are considering playing as independent operators next season.
Whether the MWJHL remains with UHU-AAU or opts to join USA Hockey, there is a strong desire from at least three teams to associate with the CIHL on an interlocking basis beginning next season.
And though the CIHL is currently operating with the aforementioned four teams, it does have expansion interest for 2015-2016 from two towns in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that could be travel partners for Kalkaska.
Two words to close out this column, at least for now: Stay tuned.
PHOTO: Detroit Fighting Irish of the MWJHL and Kalkaska Rhinos of the CIHL, in tournament action from January.