The sanctioned United Hockey Union — under the umbrella of the Amateur Athletic Union — has officially approved the new Canadian International Hockey League as a member, effective immediately.
The UHU executive gave its unanimous endorsement to the CIHL and its founder Tim Clayden at a Friday meeting in Detroit.
The CIHL will begin play effective the upcoming 2014-2015 season.
Ron White, who serves as president of the UHU, national junior hockey director for the AAU and commissioner of the Western States Hockey League, issued the following statement in accepting the CIHL as a member.
“After months of anticipation and planning, the United Hockey Union, which is the junior hockey council affiliated with the Amateur Athletic Union, has as the first order of business at its 2014 annual general meeting, approved the membership of the Canadian International Hockey League. We are extremely excited about our new partner and the excitement that it will bring to the UHU,” stated White.
Clayden, who also owns the Espanola Rivermen, will be moving his team to the new CIHL from the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
As a first-year entry in 2013-2014, Espanola finished third in the standings of the eight-team NOJHL and led the league in attendance with a per-game average of 546, regular-season and playoffs included.
A determined Clayden, who has worked tirelessly over the past three months to get the CIHL started after announcing that he and his Espanola team were leaving the NOJHL, had plenty to say about moving forward under the UHU-AAU banner.
“We are incredibly honoured and humbled that our American neighbours and friends in junior hockey of the UHU have accepted the CIHL as an equal partner under the sanctioned AAU. This creates tremendous excitement and opportunity for not only our junior hockey fans, sponsors and CIHL franchise operators but most-importantly, provides options to all junior hockey players between the ages of 15-20 in Northern Ontario and beyond.
“Our junior hockey players from Northern Ontario will now be able to compete with and against student-athletes from all over, be it Canada, the United States and Europe. Together with the UHU, we have a chance of a lifetime here to do something really special in the game of junior hockey.
“We cherish the opportunity and sincerely thank Ron White of the UHU and the Western States Hockey League, Wayne Sheehan of the Northern States Hockey League and especially the man who helped bring our shared junior hockey vision to the public forefront, Scott Gardiner of the Midwest Jr. Hockey League. I cannot thank these gentlemen enough for putting their faith in our vision and program and I can assure all involved that we will not fumble the ball or cough up the puck.”
The UHU is now made up of four junior leagues — the WSHL, NSHL, MWJHL and the CIHL.
Clayden, in learning of the CIHL’s official acceptance into the UHU, said he will begin to announce his league’s teams “in the days and weeks ahead. This is now a reality and there are documents and agreements to sign.”
Meanwhile, MWJHL commissioner Gardiner, in welcoming the arrival of the CIHL as the newest member of the UHU, said, “We welcome the challenge to cross borders to compete with our Canadian neighbours. This is a great day for junior hockey.”
The MWJHL and CIHL are expected to begin the 2014-2015 season with a joint Showcase Tournament to be held in Traverse City, Michigan.
Gardiner, who was a high-end forward in the Ontario Hockey League with Belleville Bulls and Windsor Spitfires from 1981 until 1984, also serves as coach of the MWJHL champion Traverse City Hounds.
Of note, the UHU has changed its import rule and will now classify all Canadian and American players as North Americans or non-imports.
All teams in all four UHU leagues — WSHL, NSHL, MWJHL and the CIHL — can have unlimited non-imports as well as up to 10 imports and two grandfathered imports from the prior season.
GROWTH OF THE UHU
In two years since its formation as the official junior hockey branch of the Amateur Athletic Union, the United Hockey Union has risen in recognition as an option to USA Hockey.
Now, with the formation of the Canadian International Hockey League and its membership into the AAU, the UHU has entered international competition.
Comprised of the aforementioned Western States Hockey League, Northern States Hockey League, Midwest Jr. Hockey League — and now, the Canadian International Hockey League — the UHU has strived to advance in many areas, including competition, pricing, player safety, coaching and college placement.
According to the UHU, it offers “a more-competitive business approach without interference and oversight from individuals or organizations with little to no experience in running a junior team in today’s economy. Our leagues have been able to keep prices low, while still holding player safety and level of competition in high regard.
“Our level of play has gone up exponentially with the ability to acquire more import players and focus on the level of play, rather than keeping skilled players out for no reason other than the country they call home. We have been able to keep prices down, with quality insurance coverage, especially for import players.
“We have been able to operate more freely and implement change without resistance from outsiders to the junior hockey game. The UHU will continue to improve and only get better with the formation of the CIHL and its partnership with the WSHL, MWJHL and NSHL.”
PHOTO: Tim Clayden, founder of the new CIHL and owner of the Espanola Rivermen.