THE PIPELINE SHOW: Talking to NAHL, NCHC, USHL Commissioners & Ivan Hlinka Preview Show
This week marks the Season 14 finale of The Pipeline Show as we continue our month of “Ask the Commish” segments learning all about three more leagues plus there is a terrific in-depth preview of the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton
The NCHC was formed in 2011 and began play in 2013. Josh Fenton has been the commissioner of the conference since its inception and joined me this week to talk about the league.
The last four Division I national champions have all be NCHC teams so the conference has definitely held bragging rights as of late. Fenton talked a bit about the success of the NCHC on the national scale and how the University of Minnesota-Duluth is going to attempt the extremely rare three-peat this coming season.
The commissioner then got into some of the administration topics that he’s been dealing with the last few months including changes to the online NCHC TV package.
We spoke about the format of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff being held at a neutral site as opposed to a rotation through campus sites.
The NCHC has its own unique characteristics and challenges and Fenton talked about those. One of those is trying to make sure the revenue from ticket sales is maximized as much as possible.
The topic of expansion came up but I asked Fenton if he was comfortable with 8 teams or if he’d like to see the number of teams grow to ten or more.
We spoke quite a bit about the sites of the Frozen Four and his attempt to get Kansas City in the mix the last time bids were accepted. That led to a discussion about other none Division 1 markets like Las Vegas and Seattle and even Toronto.
Lastly, a “fun” question was submitted for the commissioner which he took in stride.
USHL Commissioner Tom Garrity
The USHL is the top junior league that is entirely based in the United States and commissioner Tom Garrity joined me to talk about the success of the past year and what lies ahead for fans to anticipate.
It was a banner season for the US-NTDP and its partnership with the USHL has certainly boosted the league’s visibility to the scouting world so it’s been a win-win for both entities. Garrity touched on the positive results for the USHL and also how the NTDP benefits as well.
The USHL’s Fall Classic is headed back to Pittsburgh where it has been very successful. I asked if there was some interest in moving the Classic to other NHL markets to further expand the league’s exposure.
From there we discussed the inner working of the league when it comes to rule changes and policies and how much authority Garrity wields to make alterations if he sees fit.
One of the things the league still wants to improve on is the online package for fans to be able to watch games. Garrity talked about the ongoing job of making the league available for more fans to watch.
I asked Garrity to mention a few of the challenges that he comes across for the USHL and also what the relationship with the NAHL is like as the two leagues share the U.S. market.
Garrity announced that Plymouth, MI would be the intended host of the USHL Top Prospects Game.
Submitted fan questions focused on expansion whether it was back to Indiana to replace the defunct Indiana Ice, or to the markets like Seattle, California or even to Canada.
We covered a lot of ground so there is lots here for USHL fans to digest.
NAHL Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld
We don’t talk a lot about the North American Hockey League on The Pipeline Show but that might have to change moving forward. There might not be a league that has positively evolved as much over the last decade as the NAHL. NCAA commitments have boomed for the league to the point now where hundreds of players are getting college attention every year.
I spoke with President and Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld for over 40 minutes about his role, how things in the NAHL have changed since he took over as well as the relationship between his league and the USHL.
We discussed the unique challenges that a league with 26 teams and a footprint that includes Alaska, Texas, Maine and both Dakotas. The playoff format is also unique to the NAHL as the first two rounds are best of 5 games followed by a best of 3 and then the final is decided in a winner-take-all single game.
Expansion came up including the potential (or not) of seeing Canadian based franchises once again in the league.
Overall, there was a tremendous amount of information exchanged which I personally found educating and I think the audience, unless really familiar with the NAHL, they will find it a learning experience too.
2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup Preview
The puck drops at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup on Monday and although not all the rosters have been formally announced, we are able to get a solid preview of the event from scout Ross MacLean.
MacLean has spent the last number of years with Hockey Canada but has returned to his independent scout status and it’s in that capacity that he’ll be heading over to the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Canada’s camp ended this past weekend and the team was named on Tuesday. MacLean went in-depth with the names you need to know including scouting reports on Quinton Byfield, Connor McClennon, Jake Neighbours, Justin Sourdif, Cole Perfetti, Jamie Drysdale and Dyland Garand.
Sweden will be without a couple of their top players in Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond but expect a breakout from “third musketeer” Zion Nybeck. Expect to hear from Finnish defenceman Kasper Puutio, Czech forward Jan Mysak and Russia’s outstanding goaltender Yaroslav Askarov.