As the dog days of summer are closing in so is the Icedog season. The America West Hockey League has now become the Frontier Division of the North American 3 Hockey League. The transition to the new league happened in May of this year. With the AWHL teams joining the NA3HL there are now 31 teams in the Tier 3 level league.
Head Coach Mark Vichorek had this to say about joining the new league "I believe it is going to be very good for players and our teams as a whole. In the past we did not have tenders or a draft to recruit players and we got a lot of players that were left over from the other leagues that had those options. This made it difficult to recruit and have any real parity between teams. I also believe that name recognition is very important for the players and the NA3HL gives us that. The AWHL was a very good league but, I think this association with the NA3HL will help players even more with credibility and competitiveness within existing teams in the league."
At this point in the recruiting process the Icedogs have fared well adding some quality players to their team. Some late season trades by Coach Vichorek allowed the Icedogs 15 draft picks as opposed to the league norm of 12 per team.
"Travelling to showcases for players and attending other Junior level camps for recruits has been very good this summer," said Vichorek. "I signed 8 quality players to tenders this off season from 3 showcases and our own team pre-draft camp in June".
A tender is a pre-season contract letting players know a team wants them to be a part of their team before actual contracts can be signed. A tender makes it so other teams in our league cannot speak to or try to recruit that player.
Coach Vichorek gave some information about some of the challenges of building a Tier 3 team in the United States: "The Tier 1 United States Hockey League and the Tier 2 level North American Hockey League can call 100 players and typically 100 players would go to their camps.
"The coaches at the Tier 3 level as we are, can call 100 players and maybe get 5 or 6 to come to camp let alone sign with that team. This proves to be a challenge, but we still strive to put quality player on the ice each and every year." In joining the NA3HL and having 8 tenders and a draft now gives the Icedogs a better chance to sign more of those players so they can develop them to move on to high leagues and college, which is the ultimate goal.
As August winds down and we move toward another season make sure you come to the Haynes Pavilion and see the Icedogs in new jerseys and a whole new attitude.