Hamilton, NJ – An affiliate of the Mercer Chiefs has acquired the rights to franchises in the North American Hockey League ("NAHL") and the Eastern Hockey League ("EHL") to begin play in the upcoming 2018-19 season at the Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, MD.
"This is a very exciting step for the Mercer Chiefs. We are committed to building the premier program in New Jersey and creating a pyramid for our players to advance to college hockey," said General Manager, Rob Broderick. "We are developing more talented players in the state of New Jersey then ever before and the Chiefs organization is looking forward to offering opportunities to advance. The NAHL's reputation for Division I placement and the professional ranks speaks for itself, and no league does a better job placing athletes in Division III than the EHL."
NAHL player advancement was on display at last weekend's NCAA Division I Frozen Four Tournament. Of the four teams competing (University of Michigan, The Ohio State University, Notre Dame, and University of Minnesota-Duluth), 24 of the approximately 100 athletes competing in the tournament played in the NAHL prior to college. Three players in the tournament also played for EHL teams before college.
The NAHL and EHL programs will recruit nationwide for both teams, but priority and preference will be given to Mercer Chiefs players. NAHL and EHL draft camps will be held at the Ice Land Skating Center this summer.
The NAHL is the only USA Hockey Tier II Junior Hockey League. NAHL hockey is a tuition-free experience where players ages 16-20 are provided with equipment, coaching, ice time and travel at no cost. The NAHL is a heavily scouted league that has placed 200+ players into NCAA hockey this season, the majority earning D-I scholarships. There are 60 NCAA D-I hockey programs in the country (an average of 500 roster spots open in a given year), of which approximately 90% of roster spots are filled by junior players from the NAHL and USHL.
"The Mercer Chiefs have taken pride in doing things the right way", said Hockey Director Chris Barcless. "A perfect example of that is our U15 team that just made it to the quarterfinals at the USA Hockey National Championships before falling in overtime to eventual finalist, Little Caesars. We accomplished this by developing players from within the club and our surrounding area. With the addition of the NAHL and EHL program, we now have additional opportunities to offer our players."
The EHL is a USA Hockey Tier-III Junior Hockey League with a focus on placement into NCAA Division III programs and advancement to the NAHL. Similar to the NAHL, players skate and train on a daily basis with the goal of earning a college hockey scholarship. The EHL is the premier feeder-league for NCAA D-III Hockey. In the 2017-18 season, the EHL placed 122 kids into NCAA Hockey (5 D-I, 117 D-II/III), an average of 8 players per team placed at NCAA D-III schools. Last season, one out of every five players in NCAA D-III hockey was recruited through the EHL.
The junior team franchises were acquired by Mercer Chiefs affiliate, Black Bear Sports Group ("BBSG"), which owns and operates the Ice Land Skating Center. Ryan Scott, Vice President at BBSG and a former NCAA hockey player, will serve as an Alternate Governor of the NAHL franchise and be heavily involved in player personnel and business operations. "Having climbed through the American junior hockey system as player, I know the quality of talent that an NAHL team commands," said Scott. "The NAHL team will have the privilege of working closely with Chiefs coaches to draw talent from the Chiefs teams along with some of the top 16-20 year-olds in the country that are seeking college scholarships. The league is heavily scouted by college and NHL teams and we're excited to bring this elite level of junior hockey to Mercer County."
NAHL and EHL tryout camps and dates will begin in May 2018. Dates and locations will be announced shortly.