JUNIOR HOCKEY RETURNS TO RHODE ISLAND
WARWICK, RI — The Eastern Hockey League (EHL) is pleased to announce a new franchise that will begin play in the fall of 2022, pending USA Hockey final approval. The new EHL organization will be located in Warwick, RI and will play out of Thayer Arena. The ownership group consists of two individuals who have been committed to the growth of the game in this area over the past decade: Toby O’Brien (owner/director of OverSpeed Hockey and longtime pro/NHL coach, manager, and scout) will serve as the president/general manager of the new club while James Mello (RI Hockey Academy co-founder/director of operations) will be head coach and director of hockey operations.
"It's come full circle for me," said O'Brien, who was one of the five founding members of the league that is now the EHL back in 1993. "It’s been a pleasure to be part of the Rhode Island hockey scene over the past decade — there is such passion and history here and with so many Rhode Island players playing junior hockey at this level or similar levels, we felt this piece was missing in the development ladder. We hope to focus on Rhode Island players as our base and round out the roster with talent from around the country and internationally."
“Junior hockey in New England helped me live my dreams of playing NCAA hockey,” said Mello, who played for the New Hampshire Monarchs (EJHL) before attending Dartmouth College. “After working with so many young players over the years through the Academy and having the honor to coach at LaSalle and compete against so many quality programs at the Rhode Island high school level, it was clear there was a missing piece in the path to college hockey. I am beyond excited to get things going.”
“Rhode Island, and more specifically Warwick, is a community with a long hockey history and traditions," said WJHA/RI Jr. Blues president Dave Monte. "WJHA/RI Jr. Blues is proud to partner with Toby and James to welcome an EHL team to Rhode Island. We look forward to the community, and youth players in particular, embracing and being a part of the team's success both on and off the ice. This is a great opportunity for prospects from Rhode Island, and elsewhere, to work with first-class leadership as they hone their talents and skills to advance to the next level and enjoy the game.”
Both O’Brien and Mello stated that the support of the Rhode Island hockey community has been outstanding and the cooperation with the City of Warwick and what will be a growing partnership with the WJHA has been vital in making this a reality.
With over 1,300 NCAA commitments since 2013, the EHL has established itself as the leader in direct-to-college advancement at the Division II and III levels. Over 90% of the league’s commitments have advanced to Division II and III programs and these alumni have continued to develop and excel throughout their collegiate and for some, their professional careers. In addition to the NCAA commitments, the EHL has also helped over 80 players advance within the USA Hockey ladder of development to the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and the United States Hockey League (USHL).
Stay tuned for more announcements about the new Rhode Island junior hockey franchise in the coming weeks.