The Western States Hockey League has become a casualty of its own success. With four Junior B teams from Washington and Oregon ready to join the league for the 2000-2001 season, league officials decided to realign, forming the Northern Pacific Hockey League.
"Additional teams were forming in the Northwest," said Jack Tragis, the WSHL's former commissioner. Tragis has the same position with the newly formed Nor-Pac.
"Those teams applied to the WSHL, and it would have made it difficult to administer a league that stretches from Arizona to Alaska."
Teams from the WSHL's Northern Division make up the Nor-Pac's Northern Division, while four teams -- the Tacoma (Wash.) Chargers, the Liberty Lake (Wash.) Lumberjacks, the Eugene (Ore.) Thunder and the Portland (Ore.) Pioneers -- will form the Northwest Division.
The Nor-Pac's Northern Division is in a state of flux. Three of the five organizations from the WSHL's Northern Division have teams on the ice to start the 2000-2001 Nor-Pac season -- the Alaska Arctic Ice of Anchorage, the Yukon Claim Jumpers from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
The Peninsula Chinooks and the Alaska Sinbad Sailors of Wasilla do not have teams on the ice to start the season. The Sailors were bought out by a new ownership group at the end of the 1999-2000 season, and their home arena in Wasilla has been inadequate for a junior team.
Plans for a new arena in Wasilla are under way, and Tragis expects an entry from the Valley for the 2001-2002 season.
The Chinooks are an inactive member of the league this season, giving the organization a chance to stabilize its financial situation. Team president Vince Redford wants to have some sort of team on the ice before breakup, perhaps to play a series of exhibition games.
The Ice Dogs are making preparations to move up to Junior A hockey. Fairbanks is a full member of the Nor-Pac and an affiliate member of the America West Hockey League, a Junior A league with teams in Montana and North Dakota.
Fairbanks has a full Nor-Pac schedule this season as well as 24 games scheduled against Junior A competition. The Ice Dogs will be full members of the AWHL next season.
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