The North Central Senior Hockey League is expanding.
Three new teams – Red Deer, Sylvan Lake, Maskwacis – will suit up for the 2018-2019 NCHL Senior AA campaign.
The NCHL would like to welcome 3 teams to this coming season – Maskwacis, Red Deer and Sylvan Lake. As well, after a one year break, the Rocky Mountain Rams will be back in full force.
— NCHL (@NCHLSeniorAA) May 5, 2018
Rocky Mountain House will also step back in after a one-year leave of absence.
“We’ve been up and down, up to 10 teams and down to seven last year. Back to 11 next year,” said Jerry Muis, NCHL Vice president.
“The last big expansion was when the Battle River league folded and we gained Daysland, Big Valley and Bonnyville. Been a few years, but that’s senior hockey, it goes up and down.”
With 11 teams in the mix for next year, Muise said it also allows the league to split into a north and south division and have champion from each face off at the end of the season.
“If you look at Highway 11, there’s four teams on it. Travel-wise Rocky to Red Deer is 45 minutes and you’ve got Eckville and Sylvan Lake in between. Travel is a killer for senior teams,” Muise added.
Originally, six teams had expressed interest in joining, but at the annual meeting only three officially applied and were accepted into the fold.
The 2018-2019 campaign will mark the 24th for the league and Muise, who’s been involved since the beginning. He said playing in the league is a way for junior A and B players to continue playing competitive hockey for a few more seasons.
“It’s full contact hockey, more competitive than the no hit league. Has a better structure. These guys want to play a competitive level of hockey, they’re all ex-junior A and B players and they want to keep going,” he said.
Last year the Daysland Northstars won their third straight NCHL title, while the Bonnyville Pontiacs won the Senior AA provincial title over the Elk Point Elks.
Along with Daysland and Bonnyville, the other teams in the NCHL are the Devon Barons, Eckville Eagles, Morinville Kings, Weslock Blackhawks and the Whitecourt Wild.
They’ll play a 16 game season next year and will get underway in October and wrap up in March.