Local Sports Journal

The United States Hockey League made a significant change to its preseason hockey schedule beginning in the fall.

In meetings conducted in Muskegon last week, the league approved skipping the USHL Fall Classic for this coming season. The league is looking at expanding the fall classic in the future, but also addressing start and finish dates for its regular season.

Tentatively, the 2013-14 season will begin Sept. 20, which is an earlier start than in previous seasons.

Other scheduling adjustments will reduce the number of midweek games and travel costs. Reasons for the changes include player safety, academics and on-ice development. The new-look schedule will reduce the number of week night games thus reducing the number of school days missed by its players who are enrolled in high school or college.

It will also reduce the number of three-games-in-three-nights series now required with the league’s more compacted schedule.

Also, the earlier start date caused a scheduling conflict in Sioux City, Iowa, host of the USHL Fall Classic. The Tyson Events Center has hosted the classic the last six years. So instead of finding another site for one year, the league opted to give all USHL member clubs the opportunity to bid for the classic beginning with the 2014-15 season. Other parties interested in hosting the event can also submit bids.

“By no means are we leaving the Fall Classic behind,” USHL President and Commissioner Skip Prince said.  “It has become an important part of the USHL culture, and evolved into the largest single gathering place for elite players, fans, National Hockey League and NCAA scouts in the world. The hiatus we’re taking here is to make it even bigger and better.”

In lieu of the fall classic, the league has already begun preparing for preseason games on a regional basis for this September. Those games will provide scouts with the opportunity to see USHL talent before the regular season begins.

Muskegon has never hosted a preseason game at L.C. Walker Arena in its three seasons in the USHL