The Finnish Flash comes on as a founding member, while Luc Robitaille will contribute to the advisory board.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Credibility is everything when you're starting a new venture and a burgeoning junior league for the West Coast got a huge boost today by adding two Hall of Famers in Teemu Selanne and Luc Robitaille.
Selanne was announced as one of the league's founding members, while Robitaille will contribute to the advisory board. The other founding members bring experience in both the hockey and business realms.
Taylor Burke, for instance, is a former Phoenix Coyotes assistant GM whose family owned the team at one point and built several rinks in Arizona. He now runs a private equity and investment firm. John Moreland has been a business exec for 30 years, while Sam Simon is the founder and chairman of Simon Group Holdings that owns more than 120 companies. His son, Peter Simon, also involved with the company, will join him as a founding member, as will the Capistrano Fund, which invests in sports, media and entertainment with a focus on families.
“We have always known we had a winning concept with a ton of potential but, even knowing that, the supportive response we’ve received has been extraordinary," said Ben Robert, managing and founding partner of West Coast Hockey Sports and Entertainment. "We still have much to do, but the momentum we’ve built with these strong initial steps has put us on a successful path.”
The concept behind the league is to fill a geographical void in the junior hockey landscape: Right now, elite-level players from California and other western states have to leave home for either Canada or the Midwest if they want to get the best competition. That's despite a huge population that has continued to churn out high-end players in recent years.
The USHL, which is the top junior circuit in the country, only extends as far west as Nebraska. This new league has already received pledges of support from four NHL franchises: Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim and Vegas – and it's hard not to look at places like Arizona and Colorado as potential target markets, too.
In order to balance development and education, the new league will be NCAA-compliant (like the USHL and NAHL), so the players have a clear path to college hockey if they wish to pursue that route afterwards.
Selanne and Robitaille join Robert (who worked for the NHL's Kings and once co-owned the USHL's Omaha Lancers with Robitaille and Mario Lemieux) and former USHL commissioner Tom Garrity as part of the league's growing cadre of big hockey names.
Selanne is one of the most important players the Anaheim Ducks ever had, while the same can be said for Robitaille in Los Angeles. Both Hall of Famers carry a lot of weight both within and outside those markets.
Expectations are for the league to begin in 2024-25 with at least six franchises and an emphasis on in-market ownership.