Western States Hockey League
|No. of teams||23|
|Country||United States and Canada|
|El Paso Rhinos (2017–18)|
|Most titles||Phoenix Polar Bears (7)|
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.
The 2017–18 regular season featured 23 teams competing across four divisions, playing approximately 50 games in the regular season schedule, mimicking what players would experience at the collegiate level.
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-ever Thorne Cup Championship that year and is the only franchise from the inaugural season still in existence, now operating as the Long Beach 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 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. 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, known as the Western Provinces Hockey Association (WPHA).
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.
|Season||Thorne Cup champion||Runner-up||National Tournament result|
|1994–95||Anaheim Jr. Ducks|
|1995–96||Anaheim Jr. Ducks|
|1999–00||Ventura Mariners||Tier III Junior B National Champions|
|2001–02||Phoenix Polar Bears||Tier III Junior B National runner-up|
|2002–03||Phoenix Polar Bears||Tier III Junior B National Champion|
|2003–04||Phoenix Polar Bears|
|2004–05||Phoenix Polar Bears|
|2005–06||Fort Worth Texans||Phoenix Polar Bears|
|2006–07||Phoenix Polar Bears||El Paso Rhinos|
|2007–08||El Paso Rhinos||Phoenix Polar Bears|
|2008–09||Phoenix Polar Bears||El Paso Rhinos|
|2009–10||Phoenix Polar Bears||Boulder Bison|
|2010–11||Idaho Jr. Steelheads||El Paso Rhinos||Tier III Junior A National runner-up (Rhinos)|
|2011–12||Idaho Jr. Steelheads||Dallas Ice Jets|
|2012–13||Idaho Jr. Steelheads||Bay Area Seals||UHU National Champion (Steelheads)|
|2013–14||El Paso Rhinos||Idaho Jr. Steelheads||UHU National Champion (Rhinos)|
|2014–15||Idaho Jr. Steelheads||El Paso Rhinos||No National Championship competed this year|
|2015–16||Idaho Jr. Steelheads||Colorado Jr. Eagles|
|2016–17||Wichita Jr. Thunder||Idaho Jr. Steelheads|
|2017–18||El Paso Rhinos||Ogden Mustangs|
Full list of teams that have played in the WSHL.
Bold = Current franchise
- Anaheim Junior Ducks – (Anaheim, California) 1994–96 → Southern California Jr. Bombers
- Arizona Bandits – (Phoenix, Arizona) 1994–95
- Las Vegas Junior Aces – (Las Vegas, Nevada) 1994–95 → Las Vegas Jr. Thunder
- San Jose Junior Sharks – (San Jose, California) 1994–96
- Utah Lightning – (Salt Lake City, Utah) 1994–96 → Utah Jr. Grizzlies
- Ventura Mariners – (Simi Valley, California) 1994–2001
- Las Vegas Junior Thunder – (Las Vegas, Nevada) 1995–96
- Alaska Arctic Ice – (Anchorage, Alaska) 1996–99
- Flagstaff Mountaineers – (Flagstaff, Arizona) 1996–99
- New Mexico Ice Breakers – (Albuquerque, New Mexico) 1996–2001
- Southern California Junior Bombers – (Lakewood, California) 1996–2006 → Bay City Bombers
- Utah Junior Grizzlies – (Salt Lake City, Utah) 1996–2001 → Salt Lake Maple Leafs
- Colorado Cougars – (Denver, Colorado) 1997–99
- Fairbanks Ice Dogs – (Fairbanks, Alaska) 1997–99
- Las Vegas Bandits – (Las Vegas, Nevada) 1997–98
- Peninsula Hellfighters – (Kenai Peninsula, Alaska) 1997–99
- Sinbad Sailors – (Anchorage, Alaska) 1997–99
- Utah Valley Golden Eagles – (Provo, Utah) 1997–2002
- Las Vegas Blackjacks – (Las Vegas, Nevada) 1998–99
- Nevada Gamblers – (Las Vegas, Nevada) 1998–2000
- Yukon Claim Jumpers – (Whitehorse, Yukon) 1998–99
- Phoenix Polar Bears – (Phoenix, Arizona) 1999–2011 → Phoenix Knights
- Las Vegas Outlaws – (Las Vegas, Nevada) 2000–01
- Nevada Rattlers – (Las Vegas, Nevada) 2001–03
- Salt Lake Maple Leafs – (Salt Lake City, Utah) 2001–02 → Salt Lake Jr. Grizzlies
- San Diego Surf – (San Diego, California) 2001–08 → San Diego Gulls
- Valencia Flyers – (Valencia, California) 2001–03, 2009–present → Valencia Vipers (2003–09)
- Capital Thunder – (Roseville, California) 2002–04, 2005–09 → Bakersfield Jr. Condors
- Salt Lake Junior Grizzlies – (Salt Lake City, Utah) 2002–04
- Bazooka Blues – (Tulsa, Oklahoma) 2004–06 → Tulsa Rampage
- Dallas Titans – (Dallas, Texas) 2004–06
- Idaho Rattlers – (Boise, Idaho) 2004–06
- Valencia Vipers – (Valencia, California) 2004–09 → Valencia Flyers
- Cajun Catahoulas – (Lafayette, Louisiana) 2005–08 → Texas Renegades
- Fort Worth Texans – (Fort Worth, Texas) 2005–06
- Peoria Coyotes – (Peoria, Arizona) 2005–07
- San Antonio Diablos – (San Antonio, Texas) 2005–10
- Bay City Bombers – (Lakewood, California) 2006–10 → Long Beach Bombers
- Dallas Hawks – (Addison, Texas) 2006–09
- El Paso Rhinos – (El Paso, Texas) 2006–present
- Long Beach Bulldogs – (Lakewood, CA) 2006–07
- Tucson Tilt – (Tucson, Arizona) 2006–07
- Tulsa Rampage – (Tulsa, Oklahoma) 2006–11 → Cheyenne Stampede
- Colorado Outlaws – (Westminster, Colorado) 2007–09 → Boulder Jr. Bison
- San Diego Gulls – (Escondido, California) 2008–15 → San Diego Sabers
- Texas Renegades – (Dallas, Texas) 2008–09 → New Mexico Renegades
- Arizona RedHawks – (Peoria, Arizona) 2009–15 → Arizona Hawks
- Bakersfield Junior Condors – (Bakersfield, California) 2009–11 → Ogden Mustangs
- Boulder Junior Bison – (Superior, Colorado) 2009–14 → Colorado RoughRiders
- Fresno Monsters – (Fresno, California) 2009–present
- Idaho Junior Steelheads – (Boise/McCall, Idaho) 2009–17 → Idaho IceCats
- New Mexico Renegades – (Rio Rancho, New Mexico) 2009–14 → Springfield Express
- Long Beach Bombers – (Lakewood, California) 2010–present
- Texas Junior Brahmas – (North Richland Hills, Texas) 2010–14
- Cheyenne Stampede – (Cheyenne, Wyoming) 2011–present
- Dallas Ice Jets – (Grapevine, Texas) 2011–14
- Dallas Snipers – (Euless, Texas) 2011–present
- Park City Moose – (Park City, Utah) 2011–12 → Salt Lake City Moose
- Phoenix Knights – (Gilbert, Arizona) 2011–18
- Ogden Mustangs – (Ogden, Utah) 2011–present
- Bay Area Seals – (Daly City, California) 2012–13 → Lake Tahoe Blue
- Ontario Avalanche – (Ontario, California) 2012–present
- Salt Lake City Moose – (Salt Lake City/West Valley City, Utah) 2012–16 → Utah Outliers
- Seattle Totems – (Mountlake Terrace, Washington) 2012–present
- Southern Oregon Spartans – (Medford, Oregon) 2012–present
- Tulsa Junior Oilers – (Tulsa, Oklahoma) 2012–17
- Wichita Junior Thunder – (Wichita, Kansas) 2012–present
- Colorado Junior Eagles – (Fort Collins, Colorado) 2013–18 → Northern Colorado Eagles
- Lake Tahoe Blue – (South Lake Tahoe, California) 2013–15 → Tahoe Icemen
- Missoula Maulers – (Missoula, Montana) 2013–16
- Butte Cobras – (Butte, Montana) 2014–17
- Casper Coyotes – (Casper, Wyoming) 2014–18 → Casper Bobcats
- Colorado Evolution – (Denver, Colorado) 2014–16
- Colorado RoughRiders – (Superior, Colorado) 2014–15 → Superior RoughRiders
- Las Vegas Storm – (Las Vegas, Nevada) 2014–17
- Oklahoma City Jr. Blazers – (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) 2014–present
- Springfield Express – (Springfield, Missouri) 2014–18
- Whitefish Wolverines – (Whitefish, Montana) 2014–16
- Arizona Hawks – (Peoria, Arizona) 2015–17
- San Diego Sabers – (Escondido, California) 2015–present
- Superior RoughRiders – (Superior, Colorado) 2015–18
- Tahoe Icemen – (South Lake Tahoe, California) 2015–18
- Vancouver Rangers – (Vancouver, Washington) 2015–17 → West Sound Warriors
- Bellingham Blazers – (Bellingham, Washington) 2016–present
- Utah Outliers – (West Valley City, Utah) 2016–present
- Vail Powder Hounds – (Vail, Colorado) 2016 (Originally joined as the Breckenridge Bucks from the RMJHL but had to relocate to Vail and then folded midseason.)
- Idaho IceCats – (McCall, Idaho) 2017–18
- West Sound Warriors – (Bremerton, Washington) 2017–18 → West Sound Admirals
- Casper Bobcats – (Casper, Wyoming) 2018–present
- Cold Lake Wings – (Cold Lake, Alberta) 2018–present (Western Provinces Hockey Association)
- Edson Aeros – (Edson, Alberta) 2018–present (Western Provinces Hockey Association)
- Hinton Wildcats – (Hinton, Alberta) 2018–present (Western Provinces Hockey Association)
- Meadow Lake Mustangs – (Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan) 2018–present (Western Provinces Hockey Association)
- Northern Colorado Eagles – (Greeley, Colorado) 2018–present
- Steamboat Wranglers – (Steamboat Springs, Colorado) 2018–present
- West Sound Admirals – (Bremerton, Washington) 2018–present
- 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. 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
|2015–16||Casper Coyotes Tier III||18–3–0–0|
- "WSHL, AAU Official Release". Junior Hockey News. August 16, 2011.
- "WSHL to Become Tier II Hockey League". WSHL. June 1, 2015.
- "WESTERN STATES HOCKEY LEAGUE TO EXPAND TO CANADA FOR 2018-19 SEASON". WSHL. January 7, 2018.
- "Jr. A could be coming to town". Morinville News. January 8, 2018.
- "Pueblo Bulls bringing junior hockey to Steel City". KOAA-TV. September 18, 2018.
- 1997–98 WSHL Standings
- 2002–03 WSHL Standings
- 2003–04 WSHL Standings
- 2004–05 WSHL Standings
- 2005–06 WSHL Standings
- 2006–07 WSHL Standings
- 2007–08 WSHL Standings
- 2008–09 WSHL Standings
- 2009–10 WSHL Standings
- 2010–11 WSHL Standings
- 2011–12 WSHL Standings
- "Gamesheet". WSHL. 5 April 2012.
- 2012–13 WSHL Standings
- "Gamesheet". WSHL. 31 March 2013.
- 2013–14 WSHL Standings
- "Gamesheet". WSHL. 6 April 2014.
- "El Paso Rhinos Win 2014 UHU National Championship". Junior Hockey News. 21 April 2014.
- 2014–15 WSHL Standings
- "WSHL History". WSHL.
- "It's official: Greeley has a Junior A hockey team, the Northern Colorado Eagles". Greeley Tribune. June 6, 2018.
- "CASPER COYOTES HOCKEY TEAM SUSPENDS OPERATIONS". K2 Radio. May 4, 2018.
- "WSHL to Become Tier II Hockey League Share". WSHL. May 21, 2015.