NAHL adds New York franchise for 2023-24 season

Rochester be the eighth member of the NAHL's East Division and the 30th team in the league.

Rochester Jr. Americans logo.jpg
Rochester Jr. Americans

FAIRPORT, N.Y. — Now there will be an even 30. The North American Hockey League on Thursday, Dec. 8, announced that a partnership forming a new team in New York has been approved to join the Tier II junior league. The Rochester Jr. Americans will begin play in the 2023-24 season in the suburb of Fairport.

Rochester be the eighth member of the NAHL's East Division and the 30th team in the league. With the addition of the New York-based team, the NAHL will have franchises in 18 states.

"We are thrilled that the growth of the North American Hockey League is continuing in the East with our eighth team,” said NAHL commissioner and president Mark Frankenfeld in a news release. “The East Division has grown, thrived, and succeeded because there are a lot of players in the region that want to play the quality hockey the NAHL represents in front of all the NCAA programs in the East."

Hockey ROCS, LCC, an entity owned and operated by Chris O'Donnell, an investment management company owner, and Colleen Wegman, a grocery retailer executive, will lead the operation. O'Donnell is also part-owner of the Rochester Ice Center in Fairport, the home rink of the Jr. Americans.

Francois Methot has been named the general manager and head coach of the Jr. Americans. The 44-year-old Methot is a former NHL draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres who recently serves as the Rochester Ice Center Academy director and lead instructor. Brian Gionta, who spent 16 seasons playing in the NHL, is his assistant coach.


The team also has rounded out the rest of its on-ice and training staff, including Gionta's brother Steven, another former NHL'er who will be one of its player development consultants.

“After exploring many junior hockey opportunities, we are thrilled with our decision to partner with the NAHL in establishing this new team in Rochester, N.Y," O'Donnell said in the release. "Our personal focus on player development and advancement aligns perfectly with the NAHL’s mission. In fact, the NAHL had 350-plus player commitments during the 2021-22 season. The NAHL has long-term, stable ownership groups that are aligned around this purpose-driven mission.

"We are very fortunate to have assembled an extraordinary team of hockey professionals who share the same mission and will lead operations. Collectively, they have had tremendous success at all levels of hockey as players and successfully transitioned those experiences in becoming outstanding coaching and player development professionals."

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Currently, there is a $2 million investment going into upgrades for the Ice Center, including new locker rooms for the NAHL team, video, training and recovery improvements, coaches' office and more. Opened in 1989, the Ice Center operates two NHL-sized rinks. Robert Hensel, the rink's general manager, said its featured ice sheet has approximately 750 seats with additional viewing from the bar and standing-room options around a majority of the rink.

"An NAHL team in Rochester continues to expand our mission of providing the best junior hockey that is available in the United States and more importantly, players will not have to move far from home to play in the NAHL," Frankenfeld said. "In addition, the combination of the facility, the market, the history, and the wonderful ownership group is second to none. We expect the Rochester Jr. Americans to be a successful and top-notch organization from Day 1.”

The East Division currently has seven teams, including Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks (Danbury, Connecticut), Johnstown Tomahawks (Johnstown, Pennsylvania), Maine Nordiques (Lewiston), Maryland Black Bears (Odenton), New Jersey Titans (Middletown), Northeast Generals (Attleboro, Massachusetts), and Philadelphia Rebels (Sewell).

Last season, the Titans were the first team from the East Division to win the league's championship, the Robertson Cup.

Tryout information for all teams will be announced in the spring of 2023.


Rob Beer is the digital content manager for Forum Communications. A journalist with Forum Communications since 1991, he is the editor of The Rink Live and assists with Northland Outdoors and other content produced by the company.
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