The North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) has announced that its Board of Governors has accepted the membership applications of three organizations.
The Granite City Lumberjacks (Sauk Rapids, Minn.), Minnesota Flying Aces (Little Falls, Minn.) and a team from Vadnais Heights, Minn., will begin play next season.
“We’re excited to expand our footprint into the Upper Midwest,” said NA3HL president Mark Frankenfeld. “Not only is this a great avenue to strengthen our relationships with the youth affiliates in the region, it’s an ideal opportunity to provide the best Tier III Junior A experience for student-athletes moving on after their high school careers.”
During their four years or existence, the Lumberjacks, who play out of Sports Arena East and are led by head coach and general manager Brad Willner, have made two USA Hockey National Tournament appearances (2009 and 2011) while moving more than a dozen players onto the NCAA ranks and higher levels of junior hockey.
“We’re excited to be a part of the NA3HL and begin working with the other teams in the league,” said Willner. “The Showcases and other exposure events the NA3HL is a part of will be great for our players; they’re excited as well."
The Flying Aces play out of Exchange Arena and will be led behind the bench by Craig Larson. In four seasons, the Aces, who are owned by John and Deb Holthaus, have witnessed over a dozen of their players move on to the collegiate level with two more playing professionally in Sweden.
“The NA3HL has a proven development model which will give players the opportunity to excel within our program and move on to a higher level,” said Deb Holthaus, who also serves as the team’s general manager. “This move is about the players and our ability as an organization to offer a higher level of competition and professionalism. We’re thrilled with this opportunity.”
The new Vadnais Heights-based team, which is driven by a venture group that’s assembled a host of experienced trainers who pride themselves on advancing athletes to the collegiate and professional ranks, will play out of the brand-new Vadnais Sports Center, a state-of-the art facility situated in the Twin Cities which includes the tradition-rich hockey suburbs of White Bear Lake, North St. Paul, Forest Lake, Roseville and Moundsview.
Frankenfeld is confident each of the three teams will bolster the NA3HL’s already-solid reputation across the U.S. hockey landscape.
“Given these programs’ professionalism and proven track record for development, coupled with the NA3HL’s highly-scouted events menu that’s unmatched in the Tier III A circles, they’re certain to help open more doors for student-athletes in Minnesota and the surrounding areas as they pursue their goals on the ice and in the classroom,” he said.
Twelve teams from six states (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania) competed in the NA3HL during its inaugural 2010-11 season.