With the NHL now in full "lockout" mode I'm going to turn my attention away from them and focus on the NAHL. The NAHL (North American Hockey League) the oldest and largest junior hockey league in US, kicked off it's 37th season this year. The NAHL is made up of 24 teams in 13 different states, which now has expanded to South Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. The NAHL is also partnered with the Tier I Midget Major (18U), Midget Minor (16U) North American Prospects Hockey League (PHL), and the Tier III junior North American 3 Hockey League (3HL).
I was quite impressed last night watching the Amarillo Bulls (9-1-2) take on the Texas Tornado(11-2-1) a battle of South Division rivals, with the Bulls dominating the game and going on to 7-2 victory. I also find it refreshing to see these "kids", many of them in their late teens playing their hearts out every shift. Most of these players are student-athletes, which many of them will have the opportunity to go on to have a successful NCAA hockey career or even chance to go on to the NHL. This past 2012 NHL Entry Draft had two players from the NAHL, Anthony Stolarz from the Corpus Christi IceRays selected by the Philadelphia Flyers and Connor Hellebuyck from the Odessa Jackalopes selected by the Winnipeg Jets.
Now like many hockey fans I would love to see an end to the NHL lockout, but this could be a huge benefit to other minor hockey leagues such as the AHL, CHL, OHL, ECHL, NAHL and many more minor leagues. My advice to those fans out there that feel betrayed by the NHL like I do, go out and support these minor hockey teams as much as possible by attending games, buying merchandise, and supporting local charity events with the teams. These junior/minor league players are the future of hockey in the US, which it is growing very rapidly here in Texas and all across North America.