In the past decade, the United States Hockey League has established itself as a premier American junior hockey league and a pipeline to the NCAA and NHL. Over the past few years, alumni from the league have included NHLers such as Paul Stastny, David Backes, Max Pacioretty, Matt Carle, Thomas Vanek and Joe Pavelski. Last season, 94 different former USHL players appeared in at least one game in the NHL.
This weekend, many East Coasters will get their first glimpse of the league in the USHL Atlantic Challenge.
"You can see by the numbers were getting better every year. Nearly 40 percent of the guys playing college are alumni of our league. That's pretty good for a 16-team league," USHL Director of Communications Brian Werger said. "Our league is very Midwest-based. We want to reach out to these other markets. We want to get out there and educate them about what the USHL is and the options it has in terms of getting to college and hopefully the NHL."
A showcase of youth hockey, the Atlantic Challenge will feature 40 AAA Tier I teams at a number of different age levels from both the northeast and abroad. Among those teams will be six USHL squads -- the Muskegon Lumberjacks, Cedar Rapids Roughriders, Sioux Falls Stampede, Sioux City Musketeers, Youngstown Phantoms and Waterloo Blackhawks, who will play in a series of exhibition games. Games will be staged at the Ice House in Hackensack, N.J. and Codey Arena in West Orange, N.J.
The event will also feature an Elite Player Development Forum on Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Sheraton Meadowlands. Panelists at the forum will include NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, longtime NHL goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck and USHL Commissioner Skip Prince.
For more information about the USHL Atlantic Challenge, visit www.USHLAtlanticChallenge.com.