NA3HL Opinion: Move the Grizzlies Back to The West Division
When the Wisconsin Whalers packed up and moved west and the Evansville Junior Thunderbolts suspended operations following the 2018-2019 season the NA3HL's Central Division was left with just five teams. Because of this the league decided to move the Rochester Grizzlies out of the West and into the Central.
The reason for this move made sense on paper but it did not sit well with the fans in Rochester.
The most glaring reason for this disappointment was travel and that strong rivalries were brewing. While La Crosse, WI (Coulee Region) is just a little over an hour away from Rochester, the other teams in the division are significantly further away. In the Central Division there were multiple teams within 3 hours or less making for easy travel for fans of both teams leading to strong rivalries and increased gate and concession revenue. The shorter travel time also meant less need for longer bus trips and fewer hotel stays.
With the Oregon Tradesmen starting play in the 2020-2021 season the Central Division will have one more team and this could open the door to move the Grizzlies back to the West Division. This move should be welcomed by both Grizzlies ownership as well as fans of the Grizzlies and teams all around the West Division. Hopefully the league will agree
If junior hockey returns to normal next season the landscape could be much different. With teams looking for ways to save money ensuring teams are closer together and maximizing revenue would mean that this move should be obvious to help with teams operating expenses.
This article is strictly an opinion piece and is only the opinion of the writer, Jamie Cummings.