Since the Johnstown Tomahawks joined the NAHL for the 2012-2013 season they've seen many changes to the league when it comes to the teams that have participated. In Johnstown's short five year span, they've been part of two totally different divisions.
When they first entered the league, Johnstown was part of the North Division. That division no long exists.
That first season saw Johnstown share a division with:
Kalamazoo Jr K-wings
Port Huron Fighting Falcons
Springfield Jr. Blues
Springfield and Janesville both are currently members of the NAHL but are now part of the Midwest Division.
Port Huron moved to Johnstown's backyard and became the Keystone Ice Miners for one season.
The Soo Eagles relocated last season and became the New Jersey Jr. Titans.
Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings folded and have not played since 2012-2013.
There are multiple reasons why junior hockey sees so many teams fold, change cities, or change leagues. We won't get into those reasons today. But just for some perspective, in Johnstown's four season (this will be the fifth) the league has had eleven teams, either fold or relocate.
So, it's nice when the league doesn't lose any teams during the offseason, but instead adds teams. During this past offseason, that's exactly what has happened. One of those teams joining the league will play in the East Division.
There's rumors that the 2017-2018 might see a few teams leave the NAHL, and sadly one or two of those teams may very well come from the East Division. Last year with only a four team East division there wasn't much variety when it came to who the Tomahawks played. With the addition of a new team in the east, it will give Johnstown more teams to play against like they did when they were part of the North Division.
The league was trying to add a sixth team to the East, but just like last offseason, those plans didn't pan out.
So who are the two new teams? Let's start with the one in our own division.
The Generals are a brand new franchise, as they did not relocated from any previous NAHL market. They will be the furthest team in the division that Johnstown will visit season as the Generals will play in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Attleboro is a suburb of Boston.
Attleboro is about a 12-hour long bus trip. Just as long as it would take to travel to play the Soo Eagles a few years ago.
Johnstown will remain the only team in the division to play in a "real" hockey arena. Though, the Generals' ice rink is brand new, it is yet again another recreational type of arena. Most team's arenas are just like this at the NAHL level, though the South Division teams are not. More on that in a few moments.
The Generals will play at New England Sports Village. Here is a little video of the area that is featured on their website.
At least they're like the New Jersey Jr. Titans and have seats, instead of bleachers.
This is the second new team in the league and they will be part of the South division. Johnstown will play the Mudbugs once this season. That game will take place during the NAHL Showcase.
If you follow minor league hockey, you might be saying "Shreveport Mudbugs sounds familiar". You'd be right. They used to play in the CHL (Central Hockey League) from 2001-2011. In fact most of the NAHL south division used to have teams that played in the CHL.
Of the seven teams, six of them played one time or another in the CHL. They were:
Because of this, they all play in "real" hockey areas and not areas that are in the style of a Planet Ice, aka rec rink.
Last season, the South division had some of the best attendance numbers in the league, other than Johnstown, who finished second with 2,294 average fans a game.
Corpus Christi lead the league with 3,031 fans a game.
Amarillo was fourth with 2,188.
Odessa was fifth with 2,083.
Lone Star sixth with 1,981.
Whichita Falls was seventh with 1,659.
Topeka was thirteenth with 1,004.
To compare with the East division, who, other than Johnstown, finished in the bottom three of the league.
New Jersey - 421 fans a game.
WB-Scranton - 365 fans a game.
Aston - 344 fans a game.
In case you were wondering, the Keystone Ice Miners, in their only season in the NAHL had an average of 525 fans a game.