North American Hockey League

The North American Hockey League (NAHL) is one of the top junior hockey leagues in the United States and is in its 44th season of operation in 2019–20. It is the only Tier II junior league sanctioned by USA Hockey, and acts as an alternative to the Tier I United States Hockey League (USHL). The NAHL is one of the oldest junior hockey leagues in the United States and is headquartered in Addison, Texas.[1]

North American Hockey League
SportIce hockey
CEOMark Frankenfeld
No. of teams26
Country United States
Most recent
Aberdeen Wings (1st title)
Most titlesCompuware Ambassadors (11)

The league consists of four divisions with a total of 26 teams. The teams span the United States from Maine in the East to Alaska in the Northwest and to Texas in the South. The teams play a 60-game regular season, starting in mid-September and ending in early April. The top teams of the NAHL playoffs meet in a predetermined location to play in the Robertson Cup Championship Tournament.

Under USA Hockey Tier II sanctioning, NAHL teams do not charge players to play and also provide players with uniforms, team clothing and select equipment such as sticks, gloves and helmets. Players without local family live with billet families in their area and pay a monthly stipend that covers food and other costs. Unlike the Tier I United States Hockey League, there are no roster restrictions in the NAHL on overage players, which allows for the older players to gain extra NCAA exposure as well as teams to retain a veteran core. Teams are still bound to USA Hockey rules regarding import players and presently each team is allowed to have three non-American players on their roster.

From its beginning in 1975, the NAHL was primarily a 6–12-team league based in the Midwest, known as the Great Lakes Junior Hockey League and changed the name to the North American Hockey League in 1984.[2][3] The league's all-time leading scorer is Mike York who tallied 371 points in two seasons.[4] Other notable alumni from the NAHL include Pat Lafontaine, Mike Modano, Doug Weight, Pat Peake, Brian Rolston, Brian Holzinger, Brian Rafalski, Todd Marchant and John Scott. In 2003, the league merged with the defunct America West Hockey League to form a 19-team league.


Current teams

The 2019–20 season has 26 teams playing in four divisions:[5]

Division Team Location Arena Founded Joined
Central Aberdeen WingsAberdeen, South DakotaOdde Ice Center2010
Austin BruinsAustin, MinnesotaRiverside Arena2010
Bismarck BobcatsBismarck, North DakotaV.F.W. Sports Center19972003
Minnesota WildernessCloquet, MinnesotaNorthwoods Credit Union Arena2003*
Minot MinotaurosMinot, North DakotaMaysa Arena2011
St. Cloud BlizzardSt. Cloud, MinnesotaSt. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex2003*
East Jamestown RebelsJamestown, New YorkNorthwest Arena2008*
Johnstown TomahawksJohnstown, PennsylvaniaCambria County War Memorial Arena1990*
Maine Nordiques[6]Lewiston, MaineAndroscoggin Bank Colisée2019
Maryland Black Bears[7]Odenton, MarylandPiney Orchard Ice Arena2018
New Jersey TitansMiddletown, New JerseyMiddletown Ice World Arena2005*
Northeast GeneralsAttleboro, MassachusettsNew England Sports Village2016
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton KnightsWilkes-Barre, PennsylvaniaRevolution Ice Center2010*
Midwest Chippewa SteelChippewa Falls, WisconsinChippewa Area Ice Arena2005*
Fairbanks Ice DogsFairbanks, AlaskaBig Dipper Ice Arena19972003
Janesville JetsJanesville, WisconsinJanesville Ice Arena2009
Kenai River Brown BearsSoldotna, AlaskaSoldotna Regional Sports Complex2007
Minnesota MagiciansRichfield, MinnesotaRichfield Ice Arena2010*
Springfield Jr. BluesSpringfield, IllinoisNelson Center1993
South Amarillo BullsAmarillo, TexasAmarillo Civic Center2008*
Corpus Christi IceRaysCorpus Christi, TexasAmerican Bank Center2001*
Lone Star BrahmasNorth Richland Hills, TexasNYTEX Sports Centre1999*
New Mexico Ice Wolves[8]Albuquerque, New MexicoOutpost Ice Arenas2019
Odessa JackalopesOdessa, TexasEctor County Coliseum2008*
Shreveport MudbugsShreveport, LouisianaHirsch Memorial Coliseum2016
Topeka PilotsTopeka, KansasLandon Arena2003*

Note: An asterisk (*) denotes a franchise relocation. See respective team articles from more information.

Future teams

Division Team Location Arena Founded Joined
South Wichita Falls Warriors[9]Wichita Falls, TexasKay Yeager Coliseum2020

Past teams


Timeline of league changes

2006–07 season: Bozeman Icedogs, Billings Bulls, and Helena Bighorns left the league for the Northern Pacific Hockey League. Cleveland Jr. Barons were granted inactive status for the season. Wasilla Spirit changed names to Alaska Avalanche. Minnesota Blizzard became the Alexandria Blizzard. Texarkana Bandits moved to Chesterfield, Missouri, and became the St. Louis Bandits. Marquette Rangers were added to the league.

2007–08 season: Santa Fe Roadrunners moved to Topeka, Kansas, as the Topeka Roadrunners. The Kenai River Brown Bears started play in the league.

2008–09 season: The Southern Minnesota Express moved to Detroit and became the Motor City Machine.[16] However, the Express' home city of Owatonna was granted another NAHL team for 2008–09, named the Owatonna Express.[17] The Express were joined by another new Minnesota NAHL franchise, the Albert Lea Thunder.[18] The Texas Tornado franchise went on a one-year hiatus as they awaited renovations on their arena. Wenatchee, Washington, was awarded an expansion franchise for the 2008–09 season as the Wenatchee Wild.[19] The Fargo-Moorhead Jets were approved for dormancy.[20]

2009–10 season: The Janesville Jets were awarded an expansion franchise.[21] The Mahoning Valley Phantoms and the USNTDP left the league for the USHL.[22][23] The Texas Tornado returned to the league after taking a year off while their home arena was undergoing renovations.[24] The Motor City franchise's new ownership changed the team's nickname from Machine to Metal Jackets.[25]

2010–11 season: The NAHL Board of Governors accepted membership of several new teams in the league. The Fresno Monsters were awarded an expansion franchise. after having a team in the Tier III Junior A Western States Hockey League. The Corpus Christi IceRays were awarded a franchise formerly known as the Alpena IceDiggers. The Chicago Hitmen joined the North Division and played at West Meadows Ice Arena in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. The Marquette Rangers moved to Flint, Michigan, and changed their name to Michigan Warriors. Port Huron joined the North Division and played at McMorran Place in Port Huron, Michigan. The North Iowa Outlaws relocated to become the Coulee Region Chill in Onalaska, Wisconsin. The Aberdeen Wings joined the Central Division and played at the Odde Ice Center in Aberdeen, South Dakota. The Austin Bruins joined the Central Division and played at the Riverside Arena in Austin, Minnesota. The Dawson Creek Rage joined the West Division and played at EnCana Events Centre in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. The Albert Lea Thunder relocate to become the Amarillo Bulls at joined the South Division out of the Amarillo Civic Center in Amarillo, Texas. The New Mexico Mustangs joined the South Division and played at Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The Alaska Avalanche relocate to Palmer, Alaska, but keep the same name.

2011–12 season: The Owatonna Express relocate to Odessa, Texas, and become Odessa Jackalopes. The Motor City Metal Jackets relocate to Jamestown, New York, and become Jamestown Ironmen. The Minot Minotauros and Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings granted expansion.

2012–13 season: The Alaska Avalanche relocated to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and became Johnstown Tomahawks. Alexandria Blizzard relocated to Brookings, South Dakota, and became the Brookings Blizzard. Traverse City North Stars franchise purchased by the Soo Eagles and joined the league from Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. The Dawson Creek Rage, New Mexico Mustangs, and St. Louis Bandits takes leaves of absence. The Chicago Hitmen fold.

2013–14 season: The dormant New Mexico Mustangs relocated to Richfield, Minnesota, and became Minnesota Magicians. The Texas Tornado relocated back to North Richland Hills, Texas, and became Lone Star Brahmas. The Minnesota Wilderness joined the league from the Superior International Junior Hockey League by purchasing dormant St. Louis Bandits franchise. The Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees purchased the Wenatchee Wild franchise. The Fresno Monsters were relocated to become the second incarnation of the Wenatchee Wild and the Monsters returned to only fielding a team in the Western States Hockey League. The Jamestown Ironmen and Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings ceased operations.

2014–15 season: The Port Huron Fighting Falcons were relocated to Connellsville, Pennsylvania, to become the Keystone Ice Miners, remaining in the North Division, and the Wenatchee Wild moved from the Midwest Division to the South Division.[26]

2015–16 season: On May 1, 2015, the NAHL announced that the dormant Dawson Creek Rage franchise was purchased by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights organization to be an expansion team for the 2015–16 season.[27] The Keystone Ice Miners ceased operations. The Michigan Warriors ceased operations due to the arrival of the major junior Flint Firebirds. The Soo Eagles announced they were returning to the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League citing the lack of other local teams as they were the last remaining team in Michigan. The New Jersey Junior Titans organization bought the franchise from the Eagles and relocated to Middleton, New Jersey. The Eagles originally sought membership with the NAHL for the 2012–13 season and returned to the NOJHL for the season 2015–16 season. The Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees were relocated to Aston, Pennsylvania and became the Aston Rebels. A new East Division was formed composed of Aston, Johnstown, New Jersey, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Wenatchee Wild organization left the NAHL and joined the Canadian Junior A British Columbia Hockey League.

2016–17 season: The league announced the continued expansion of the East Division by adding the Northeast Generals of Attleboro, Massachusetts. The Generals organization also has a Tier III team in the North American 3 Hockey League (previously in the North American 3 Eastern Hockey League prior to the 2016 league merger). On April 8, 2016, the Shreveport Mudbugs were announced as an expansion team.[28]

2017–18 season: The Wichita Falls Wildcats ceased operations after failing to find a buyer for the franchise.[29] Aston Rebels relocated and renamed as the Philadelphia Rebels.

2018–19 season: The NAHL added another team to its East Division with an expansion franchise granted to the Maryland Black Bears.[7][30] The Coulee Region Chill were sold and relocated as the Chippewa Steel in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and the Philadelphia Rebels became the Jamestown Rebels in Jamestown, New York. The Topeka RoadRunners were sold and rebranded as the Topeka Pilots.[15]

2019–20 season: The NAHL approved of two expansion teams: the Maine Nordiques in Lewiston, Maine, and the New Mexico Ice Wolves in Albuquerque, New Mexico.[6][8] The Brookings Blizzard relocated and became the St. Cloud Blizzard.

Robertson Cup winners

The Robertson Cup Championship is a playoff series held at the end of the NAHL season. The trophy is awarded annually to the USA Hockey Tier II junior national playoff champion. The Cup is the oldest junior hockey trophy in the United States and is named in honor of Chuck Robertson, a pioneer of junior hockey in the NAHL and youth hockey in the state of Michigan. Chuck Robertson was the owner of the Paddock Pool Saints when they won a record seven straight NAHL championships from 1976 to 1983.

As of the 2017–18 season[31]

  • 1976 – Detroit Little Caesars
  • 1977 – Paddock Pool Saints
  • 1978 – Paddock Pool Saints
  • 1979 – Paddock Pool Saints
  • 1980 – Paddock Pool Saints
  • 1981 – Paddock Pool Saints
  • 1982 – Paddock Pool Saints
  • 1983 – Paddock Pool Saints
  • 1984 – St. Clair Shores Falcons
  • 1985 – St. Clair Shores Falcons
  • 1986 – Compuware Ambassadors
  • 1987 – Compuware Ambassadors
  • 1988 – Compuware Ambassadors
  • 1989 – Compuware Ambassadors
  • 1990 – Compuware Ambassadors
  • 1991 – Kalamazoo Jr. K Wings
  • 1992 – Compuware Ambassadors
  • 1993 – Kalamazoo Jr. K Wings
  • 1994 – Compuware Ambassadors
  • 1995 – Compuware Ambassadors
  • 1996 – Springfield Jr. Blues
  • 1997 – Springfield Jr. Blues
  • 1998 – Compuware Ambassadors
  • 1999 – Compuware Ambassadors
  • 2000 – Danville Wings
  • 2001 – Texas Tornado
  • 2002 – Compuware Ambassadors
  • 2003 – Pittsburgh Forge
  • 2004 – Texas Tornado
  • 2005 – Texas Tornado
  • 2006 – Texas Tornado
  • 2007 – St. Louis Bandits
  • 2008 – St. Louis Bandits
  • 2009 – St. Louis Bandits
  • 2010 – Bismarck Bobcats
  • 2011 – Fairbanks Ice Dogs
  • 2012 – Texas Tornado
  • 2013 – Amarillo Bulls
  • 2014 – Fairbanks Ice Dogs
  • 2015 – Minnesota Wilderness
  • 2016 – Fairbanks Ice Dogs
  • 2017 – Lone Star Brahmas
  • 2018 – Shreveport Mudbugs
  • 2019 – Aberdeen Wings


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  6. "NAHL team in Lewiston, Maine approved for the 2019-20 season". NAHL. February 28, 2019.
  7. "NAHL team in Maryland approved for the 2018-19 season". NAHL. April 12, 2018.
  8. "NAHL team in New Mexico approved for the 2019-20 season". NAHL. February 28, 2019.
  9. "Wichita Falls Warriors Announce Name And Logo". OurSports Central. November 26, 2019.
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  13. "Detroit Little Caesars Statistics and History". HockeyDB. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  14. "Rebel Yell". The Post-Journal. June 13, 2018.
  15. "Topeka Pilots — RoadRunners get a new name". WIBW-TV. June 5, 2018.
  16., Machine Motors into Michigan, May 2, 2008
  17., Owatonna membership approved for 2008–09, May 19, 2008
  18., Albert Lea awarded NAHL franchise, May 1, 2008
  19. Wenatchee World, Finally we have a hockey team, May 14, 2008
  20., Fargo-Moorhead ceases operations, May 19, 2008
  21., Jets touch down in Janesville, June 5, 2009
  22., Zoldan, NAHL make a deal, August 13, 2009
  23., NTDP to no longer compete in NAHL, February 26, 2008
  24., Tornado to hit the ice again in 2009-10, April 29, 2009
  25., Motor City changes nickname, logo, June 25, 2009
  26., NAHL announces teams, alignment for 2014-15 season, May 14, 2014
  27. "Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights join NAHL in 2015-16 season". North American Hockey League (NAHL). Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  28. "Shreveport Mudbugs accepted into the NAHL for the 2016-17 season". OurSports Central. April 8, 2016.
  29. "Wildcats' season ends with 4-3 overtime loss". Times Record News. April 22, 2017.
  30. "NAHL team in Maryland to be called the Black Bears". May 9, 2018.
  31. "Robertson Cup". NAHL. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
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