LACONIA — The Laconia Leafs have changed their name to the New Hampshire Lakers Junior Hockey Club and starting in September will be playing in the Eastern Hockey League.
Tim Martin, communications director for the Lakers, says that the name change ''is designed to show the organization's commitment to the Lakes Region by adopting the same name as the local youth hockey organization.''
He said that the two-team, not-for-profit, organization will continue to call the Laconia Ice Arena home and will feature a new look and a new logo.
They will also be looking for a new head coach to replace Joe Cardarelli and expect to be naming the new coach within a few weeks.
Currently, Brad Wheeler, who is in his second year with the Lakers, is serving as general manager and interim head coach.
The Lakers recently hired Rocky Romanella as an assistant coach. Coach Romanella will assist in all facets of the New Hampshire Lakers program, including serving as the club's recruiting coordinator.
The Lakers are members of the Atlantic and Metropolitan Junior Hockey Leagues. Junior hockey is a competitive level of hockey with players who are 20 years or younger. The principle purpose of the program is to prepare, promote, and develop the athletes for future endeavors into a college or professional program.
The Leafs/Lakers have placed over 120 players into college and professional rinks over the last ten years. Over the 2012-13 season, players representing 17 different states and three European countries have worn the Laconia Leafs jersey. The athletes live with local families around the Lakes Region.
The Eastern Hockey League will kick off its inaugural season with three divisions in 2013-14. Each EHL team will play four games against its fellow divisional foes for 20 games; each EHL team will play 12 league Showcase games against teams in other divisions; each EHL team will play 12 more games against teams in other divisions for a total of 44 regular season games.
The EHL divisions are listed below:
North Division: New Hampshire Lakers, Boston Bandits, Boston Jr. Rangers, New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, Northern Cyclones and Valley Jr. Warriors
Central Division: Connecticut Oilers, Connecticut Wolfpack, New York Applecore, New York Bobcats,
Walpole Express and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights.
South Division: New Jersey Rockets, New Jersey Titans, Philadelphia Little Flyers, Philadelphia Jr. Flyers, Philadelphia Revolution, Washington Jr. Nationals.
Former NHLer and U.S. Olympian Mark Kumpel, who spent the past five years coaching and managing a successful Junior hockey team, will serve as the EHL's Director of Hockey Operations. "This group of coaches and owners are the best in Junior hockey," said Kumpel. "The coaching staff of the EHL rivals that of any junior league in the country." Current EHL head coaches include former college and professional players (see team web sites for individual bios).
For players and parents looking for clarity and solid information about the Junior hockey experience, these 18 East Coast organizations are excited to form the EHL with the intention of producing college-bound hockey players and providing high standards of operation to assure a quality player environment. Simply put – a better league with higher standards and a player-focused environment.
The EHL has implemented league-wide standards including player contracts that mandate numerous player experience criteria at no extra cost above the player tuition. Additionally, EHL member organizations have created a league-wide education service that will help players and parents find ways to continue their education, as well as helping them navigate their way through the process of becoming a NCAA varsity student-athlete.
The 18 EHL organizations combined for more than 120 NCAA commitments during the 2012-13 season and have a proven track record of preparing young hockey players for college hockey and beyond.