Now in its third season, the North American 3 Hockey League (3HL), one of six USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier III Junior leagues, serves as one of the top training grounds in the country by providing the best coaching, exposure and developmental vehicles available for student-athletes in its classification.
The 3HL began back in the early 1980's as the Junior B level Central States Hockey League (CSHL). In 2007, the CSHL changed from Junior B to Tier III Junior A under the USA Hockey classification system. On November 1, 2010 it was announced that the North American Hockey League would take control of the CSHL. The NAHL-CSHL affiliation allowed for a more structured junior hockey system to provide athletes with more opportunities to advance to college and pro hockey. At the time of the take over the league was renamed to the North American 3 Hockey League (3HL).
The primary mission of the 3HL, which is managed organizationally by the North American Hockey League (NAHL), is to provide a structured developmental environment for student-athletes whose youth options are limited but are still reaching their potential and have aspirations of playing in the NAHL or United States Hockey League (USHL) and eventually the NCAA or American College Hockey Association (ACHA).
Through the NAHL's vast resources for development and exposure, the creation of the 3HL provides another worthy path for players to grow, on and off the ice, while being showcased in front of the entire junior, college and professional scouting community. It also allows the NAHL and 3HL to work with USA Hockey's youth affiliates regarding junior-youth conflicts of same-age players.
In addition to its regular-season schedule and playoffs, the 3HL, which boasts a tight geographical footprint with 17 teams in seven states (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania) allowing players to compete and excel academically at home, will participate in the NAHL's high-exposure events, which attract hundreds of college, junior and professional coaches and scouts.
The 3HL will have four events during the 2012-13 season. All 17 teams will compete in two, league-wide Showcases. The first will take place from November 30th - December 3rd, 2012 at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota, in which each team will play four regular season games. The second 3HL Showcase will again feature all 17 clubs playing in four regular season games as part of the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament and NAPHL Championship series in Troy, Michigan from February 17-20, 2013. The 3HL will host a season-ending Championship Tournament called in the battle for the Silver Cup on March 28th - April 1st, 2013. Finally, the 3HL will have their Top Prospects 'all-star' style event in May of 2013, which will coincide with the NAHL's Robertson Cup National Championship Tournament.
The 3HL also participates in the NAHL's wide menu of marketing partnerships, including its relationships with Combat Hockey, the Official Equipment Supplier of the NAHL; FASTHockey, the Official Internet Broadcast Provider of the NAHL; OT Sports, the Official Jersey Supplier of the NAHL; The Messier Project, the Official Helmet Supplier of the NAHL and Brian's Custom Sports, Official Goaltender Supplier of the NAHL.
What's more, the 3HL benefits from the NAHL's player procurement system, whereby one NAHL tender form is allocated to each of the league's 24 teams for use on 3HL players only. In addition, one 3HL tender is reserved for NAPHL players who have aged out of their youth options. The NAHL's recent roster reduction initiative from 25 to 23 players also serves the 3HL to help expand its player pool.