Casper’s lone professional sports team is now the top of its class.
The Casper Coyotes, a junior hockey team in the Western States Hockey League, was granted Tier 1 status by the United Hockey Union this month.
“It’s the highest status you can be granted in amateur hockey,” Coyotes head coach John Ambrefe said. “It’s on (par) with the United States Hockey League and Central Canada Hockey League. It’s a great tribute to the city of Casper, the team and the organization.
“We went from Tier 3 to Tier 1 in three short years. It’s a great thing.”
The components involved in achieving Tier 1 status include a strong fan base, great ice and the ability to seat at least 1,500 fans, among other things. The Coyotes, established as an expansion team for the 2014-2015 season, passed each test.
The team consists of amateur hockey players from across the world.
“In the last three years, we probably have had people from all over Europe, all over the U.S. and a few Canadian boys,” Ambrefe said. “In the future, the majority of these kids are going to play college hockey or pro hockey.”
The achievement of Tier 1 status is good news for a city that lost two professional sports teams from 2011 to 2014. The Casper Ghosts, a minor league baseball affiliate for the Colorado Rockies, and the Wyoming Calvary, an indoor football team, both left Casper.
With the promotion, the Coyotes will now play in a new division, the Central One Hockey League (CHL). It will consist of six teams, from Ogden, Utah; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; El Paso, Texas; Springfield, Missouri; and the Colorado Junior Eagles. Each organization will also keep a Tier 2 team in the WSHL to be utilized as a farm system, meaning there will be two teams in Casper.
Tier 1 status will begin for the 2017-2018 season. For now, the Coyotes will start their final season in Tier 2, with their home opener slated for Friday at the Casper Ice Arena.
“Casper, Wyoming, should be a hockey town,” Ambrefe said. “And it is.”