One of the more memorable low-level minor hockey leagues is making a comeback in 2018.
That’s right, hockey fans from the Midwest who remember the old United Hockey League are in for a treat as I was recently pointed to unitedhockeyleague.com, which has a post dating back to August stating that the league will return for the 2018-19 season.
The UHL existed from 1997 to 2007, mainly featuring teams from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Canada, and now and then dipping into places like Missouri and Connecticut. Prior to becoming the UHL, the league was known as the Colonial Hockey League from 1991 to 1997, then after its run as the UHL, became the International Hockey League from 2007 to its demise in 2010, when a few of the remaining teams joined the Central Hockey League.
Some of the more memorable teams in its time include the Quad City Mallards, Muskegon Fury, Fort Wayne Komets, and Flint Generals.
From the league website announcing the league’s return:
The United Hockey League, LLC is proud to announce that the once popular United Hockey League (UHL) will return to the ice for the 2018-2019 hockey season.
The United Hockey League (UHL), originally known as the Colonial Hockey League from 1991 to 1997 and last known as the International Hockey League from 2007 to 2010, was a low-level minor professional ice hockey league, with teams in the United States and Canada.
The league was headquartered in Rochester, Michigan, and in its last year, consisted of seven teams.
It folded in 2010, with most of its teams joining the Central Hockey League. The Central Hockey League teams still operating in 2014 were then added to ECHL. The only former UHL/IHL teams still active as of 2017 are the Quad City Mallards, Fort Wayne Komets, and Kalamazoo Wings.
The newly formed United Hockey League hopes to capture the same excitement and brand of hockey enjoyed in the past and will operate as an independent professional league.
The UHL will field six teams in its inaugural season and play a 50 game schedule between late October and April…
More information about the future of the UHL to be released at a later date.
As for the caliber of play, when the league was the CoHL and UHL it was decent, but as the years wore on it got worse and worse, and by the time it was the new IHL, it was essentially hockey lifers who were out there collecting a check, and was really pretty bad hockey by the end of it.
If I had to guess, I would think this league aims to fill that void that left so many midwest towns without a pro hockey team after the CoHL/UHL/IHL folded. Likely competing for players with the Federal Hockey League, and the larger and more recognized Southern Professional Hockey League. The FHL presents a challenge due to having three teams in in Michigan, Illinois, and Western Ontario, all areas that were previously strong UHL markets.
The other issue this league faces now is expanded junior teams, many of the old towns that were in the UHL have teams in the OHL, USHL, or NAHL now, making me wonder how many viable markets there are for this league.
To me it just seems like a stab at nostalgia, sort of like when they re-named the league the IHL, hoping fans from the past would return, even if it wasn’t at all the same product.
One other interesting thing to me is the 50-game season, which seems short compared to most other leagues. Generally minor leagues that aren’t the AHL or ECHL try to shoot for 60 or so games, so this seems like a bit shorter season than most leagues I’ve seen.
But, that all will be sorted out in the coming months as the league tries to make a comeback after eight seasons away.