Western States Hockey League

Established in 1993, the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) is an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU)-sanctioned, junior ice hockey league. The WSHL was previously sanctioned by USA Hockey from 1994 to 2011. Teams play approximately 50 games in the regular season schedule, mimicking what players would experience at the collegiate level.

Western States Hockey League
CommissionerRon White
No. of teams21
CountryUnited States and Canada
Most recent
El Paso Rhinos (2018–19)
Most titlesPhoenix Polar Bears (7)
Official websiteWSHL


Year one consisted of six teams, spanning Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah, with all member clubs playing a 30-game schedule operating as Tier III Junior B teams. The league was founded by Dr. Don Thorne and the Thorne Cup championship trophy was named in his recognition. The Anaheim Jr. Ducks won the first Thorne Cup Championship that season and was the last franchise from the inaugural season still in existence as the Long Beach Bombers until 2019.[1] The Long Beach franchise was sold and the Bombers brand was then used as an expansion team called the Barrhead Bombers.

Current commissioner Ron White took over operation of the WSHL in 1995 and continued to expand the league footprint. In 2007, the WSHL upgraded their league status from the Tier III Junior B level to Junior A to attract higher quality prospects.

In 2011, the league joined the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and dropped its USA Hockey sanctioning[2] leading to the loss of its most successful franchise, the Phoenix Polar Bears, while adding many new teams. After the WSHL's success without USA Hockey, the United Hockey Union (UHU) was formed under the AAU sanctioning along with the Northern States Hockey League (NSHL) and the Midwest Junior Hockey League (MWJHL). The UHU leagues continued to operate with Tier III Junior A player requirements.

In 2015, the WSHL Board of Governors announced the approval of the league to start competing as a Tier II-level player league for a higher caliber of play beginning in the 2015–16 season. Prior to the announcement the only Tier II-level league in the United States was the North American Hockey League. However, unlike the USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier II NAHL, the UHU-sanctioned WSHL operates similar to the Canadian Junior Hockey League's Junior "A" status and continues to charge player tuition to help pay for team travel expenses.[3] In the 2015–16 season, the WSHL grew to its largest membership with 29 teams across 14 states. In 2018, the league expanded into western Canada with a Provinces Division in the WSHL that had originally been announced to play as its own league called the Western Provinces Hockey Association (WPHA).[4][5] After one season, the WSHL's association with the WPHA dissolved and removed the teams that had been directly operated by the owners of the WPHA.[6] The WPHA then joined the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League, an independent junior league primarily based in Ontario.[7]

The WSHL has had numerous teams participate and win the USA Hockey and UHU National Championship over the years and most recently, the El Paso Rhinos were crowned the United Hockey Union National Champions in 2014. The WSHL has had great success in moving players on to the college hockey ranks through the "Western States Shootout", an annual all-league showcase held every December in Las Vegas, Nevada at City National Arena. The event averages in excess of 80 scouts in attendance, all of whom are looking to bolster their roster for the following season.


Mountain Division
Northwest Division
Western Division
Provincial Division

2019–20 alignment

As of WSHL's team listing on November 25, 2019.[8]

Mountain Dallas SnipersPlano, TexasDr. Pepper StarCenter2011
El Paso RhinosEl Paso, TexasCounty Events Center2006
Northern Colorado EaglesGreeley, ColoradoGreeley Ice Haus2013
Oklahoma City Jr. BlazersEdmond, OklahomaArctic Edge Ice Arena2014
Pueblo BullsPueblo, ColoradoPueblo Ice Arena2019
Wichita Jr. ThunderWichita, KansasWichita Ice Center2012
Northwest Bellingham BlazersBellingham, WashingtonBellingham Sportsplex2016
Ogden MustangsOgden, UtahThe Ice Sheet2002
Seattle TotemsMountlake Terrace, WashingtonOlympic View Arena2012
Southern Oregon SpartansMedford, OregonThe RRRink2012
Utah OutliersWest Valley City, UtahAcord Ice Center2011
Provincial Barrhead BombersBarrhead, AlbertaBarrhead Arena2019
Cold Lake HornetsCold Lake, AlbertaEnergy Centre2019
Edson AerosEdson, AlbertaRepsol Place2018
Hinton TimberwolvesHinton, AlbertaMurray Rec Center2019
Meadow Lake MustangsMeadow Lake, SaskatchewanDistrict Rec Center2018
Western Fresno MonstersFresno, CaliforniaSelland Arena2009
Las Vegas ThunderbirdsLas Vegas, NevadaSoBe Ice Arena2019
Ontario AvalancheAnaheim, CaliforniaThe Rinks-Anaheim ICE2012
San Diego SabersEscondido, CaliforniaIceoplex Escondido2001
Valencia FlyersValencia, CaliforniaIce Station Valencia2001


SeasonThorne Cup championRunner-upNational Tournament result
1994–95Anaheim Jr. Ducks
1995–96Anaheim Jr. Ducks
1996–97Flagstaff Mountaineers
1997–98[9]Flagstaff Mountaineers
1998–99Ventura Mariners
1999–00Ventura MarinersTier III Junior B National Champions
2000–01Ventura Mariners
2001–02Phoenix Polar BearsTier III Junior B National runner-up
2002–03[10]Phoenix Polar BearsTier III Junior B National Champion
2003–04[11]Phoenix Polar Bears
2004–05[12]Phoenix Polar Bears
2005–06[13]Fort Worth TexansPhoenix Polar Bears
2006–07[14]Phoenix Polar BearsEl Paso Rhinos
2007–08[15]El Paso RhinosPhoenix Polar Bears
2008–09[16]Phoenix Polar BearsEl Paso Rhinos
2009–10[17]Phoenix Polar BearsBoulder Bison
2010–11[18]Idaho Jr. SteelheadsEl Paso RhinosTier III Junior A National runner-up (Rhinos)
2011–12[19]Idaho Jr. SteelheadsDallas Ice Jets[20]
2012–13[21]Idaho Jr. SteelheadsBay Area Seals[22]UHU National Champion (Steelheads)
2013–14[23]El Paso RhinosIdaho Jr. Steelheads[24]UHU National Champion (Rhinos)[25]
2014–15[26]Idaho Jr. SteelheadsEl Paso RhinosNo National Championship competed this year
2015–16Idaho Jr. SteelheadsColorado Jr. Eagles
2016–17Wichita Jr. ThunderIdaho Jr. Steelheads
2017–18El Paso RhinosOgden Mustangs
2018–19El Paso RhinosOgden Mustangs

Team history

Full list of teams that have played in the WSHL.[27]
Bold = Current franchise

League staff

  • Don Thorne - Chairman of the Board
  • Ron White - Commissioner/President
  • Bob Armando - Deputy Commissioner/Vice President
  • Teri Talluto - Treasurer
  • Laura Cisneros - Director of Marketing and Communications
  • Carol Grinstead - Secretary
  • Arthur Kitano - Director of Officials
  • Roger Klein - Referee in Chief
  • Braden Grindstead - Referee in Chief
  • Bill Palter

Western Prospects League

As part of the approval of the WSHL to Tier II status in 2015, the WSHL Board of Governors also announced the formation of the Western Prospects League (WPL), a United Hockey Union approved Tier III development league for the WSHL.[32] In its only season (2015–16), the WPL played with four Tier III prospect teams under Tier II organizations (the Casper Coyotes, Cheyenne Stampede, El Paso Rhinos, and Ogden Mustangs) with occasional games against non-WSHL affiliated teams.

In 2016, the UHU approved of two other Tier III leagues, the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League (CPJHL) and the National College Prospects Hockey League (NCPHL). Several of the WSHL organizations then announced affiliations with some of the NCPHL teams to act as a developmental team and the WPL appears to have been disbanded.

Western Prospects League Champions

SeasonWPL ChampionResults
2015–16Casper Coyotes Tier III18–3–0–0


  1. "The WSHL: 25 Years In and Only Getting Started". USAJuniorHockey.com. December 12, 2018.
  2. "WSHL, AAU Official Release". Junior Hockey News. August 16, 2011.
  3. "WSHL to Become Tier II Hockey League". WSHL. June 1, 2015.
  5. "Jr. A could be coming to town". Morinville News. January 8, 2018.
  6. "Hinton's WPHA hockey fate could be decided in court". Regina Leader-Post. June 7, 2019.
  7. "The GMHL to Expand to Western Canada". GMHL. June 13, 2019.
  8. "Teams". WSHL. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  9. 1997–98 WSHL Standings
  10. 2002–03 WSHL Standings
  11. 2003–04 WSHL Standings
  12. 2004–05 WSHL Standings
  13. 2005–06 WSHL Standings
  14. 2006–07 WSHL Standings
  15. 2007–08 WSHL Standings
  16. 2008–09 WSHL Standings
  17. 2009–10 WSHL Standings
  18. 2010–11 WSHL Standings
  19. 2011–12 WSHL Standings
  20. "Gamesheet". WSHL. 5 April 2012.
  21. 2012–13 WSHL Standings
  22. "Gamesheet". WSHL. 31 March 2013.
  23. 2013–14 WSHL Standings
  24. "Gamesheet". WSHL. 6 April 2014.
  25. "El Paso Rhinos Win 2014 UHU National Championship". Junior Hockey News. 21 April 2014.
  26. 2014–15 WSHL Standings
  27. "WSHL History". WSHL.
  28. "It's official: Greeley has a Junior A hockey team, the Northern Colorado Eagles". Greeley Tribune. June 6, 2018.
  30. @SWranglers (November 24, 2019). "Steamboat Wranglers cease operations midseason" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  32. "WSHL to Become Tier II Hockey League Share". WSHL. May 21, 2015.
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