North American Hockey League
The NAHL is a 28-team Tier II Junior A League with one division geographically near Johnstown. There are North Division teams in Jamestown, N.Y., and Michigan squads in Kalamazoo, Port Huron, Flint and Traverse City.
Other divisions have teams in Texas, New Mexico, California and Alaska.
“Johnstown is a market that is of interest because it does fit the footprint of the North American Hockey league but to this point (Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld) has had no one reach out to him in regards to a franchise opportunity there,” Alex Kyrias, Director of Communications for the NAHL, said on Monday. “The way the North American Hockey League works, that’s a key ingredient. The league does not put teams in by itself. It requires an ownership group. Obviously with the history it’s an intriguing market. With the team in Jamestown, N.Y., and the four teams in Michigan, it would fit into the footprint.”
Silva has spent a significant amount of time researching the junior leagues and business models.
“Even if we started a junior league team, who knows if the people would come out for them?” Silva said. “We’re just really trying to find the best financial model, the best product.
“The only Tier I is the USHL, but the farthest East they exist is Youngstown (Ohio),” Silva added. “It might be a stretch trying to come a little farther East. The North American Hockey League is the only Tier II league. They’ve got teams in New York and Michigan and there might be an opportunity there to form a bridge. That’s going to depend on the ownership and whether they can field a team.”
The example might be like comparing apples to oranges, but Silva remembered a previous attempt to put a lower level junior team in the region.
“We went through this once before with the Continental Junior Hockey,” he said. “We gave them ice in the Ebensburg facility. We said, ‘Listen, start your team and you can play down here in the big house once you grow.’ They couldn’t even field a team. I think they got a few players but no goalie. We’re really afraid of that happening.
“I don’t want to make this major announcement and then see it fizzle. We want to make sure everything is in place. It’s the end of January,” he said Sunday. “I don’t know if it can happen.”
It’s worth noting that the pedigree of the NAHL and USHL is much more distinguished than the low-level junior team that failed in Johnstown a few years ago.