NAHL approves new team based in Colorado, will begin play next season
The team will be known as the Colorado Grit and compete in the South Division starting in the 2023-24 season.
GREELEY, Colo. -- The U.S. began to expand west of the Mississippi River with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. In 2023, the NAHL continues its own continental westward trek as it announced Friday, Jan. 6 the membership approval of a new team based in Greeley.
The team will be known as the Colorado Grit, the 31st team in the league and the westernmost franchise along with the New Mexico Ice Wolves in the Lower 48. The Greeley franchise will be the 19th state in which the NAHL will have an operation.
Last month, the NAHL announced the addition of the Rochester Jr. Americans , which will join the East Division. That team will also begin play for the 2023-24 campaign.
The Colorado Grit will be owned and operated by Bob Bowden, Casey Bradshaw and David Clarkson, who own Colorado Sports Partners, LLC. The team will play out of the Greeley Ice Haus , a 1,200-seat arena about 20 miles west of Loveland. The ACHA Division II University of Northern Colorado Bears also call the Ice Haus home.
The Grit will begin play in the 2023-24 season in the NAHL's soon-to-be nine-team South Division, which includes Texas-based Amarillo Wranglers, Corpus Christi IceRays, El Paso Rhinos, Lone Star Brahmas and the Odessa Jackalops. The New Mexico Ice Wolves, Shreveport (La.) Mudbugs and Oklahoma Warriors also make up that division.
"We are excited to grow the NAHL towards the west with likeminded owners interested in putting the players and the community first. The Colorado Grit will be the NAHL’s first-ever team based in the state of Colorado and will create natural rivalries with those teams in the western part of the South Division,” said NAHL commissioner and president Mark Frankenfeld. “In addition, the team is in close proximity to three, high-level NCAA Division I hockey programs, which will bring more eyes on every player that plays in the South Division.”
Five of the last 10 Robertson Cup champions have come from the South Division.
The ownership group has nine years of junior hockey experience, more than 20 years of high-level coaching, recruiting and player development experience at the junior, professional and AAA/Tier I levels, the NAHL stated. Clarkson logged 12 years in the NHL, playing for New Jersey, Toronto and Columbus before retiring after the 2015-16 season.
“As a group we are excited for the opportunity to join and be accepted into the NAHL," Bradshaw said. "With the great reputation of the NAHL coupled with this great Colorado opportunity, there is no doubt a successful organization can be built. This group is committed to long long-term success and will establish a program both the Colorado hockey community and the NAHL will be proud of."
The league has two teams in Alaska with concentrations of teams in the Upper Midwest, the Southwest and the Northeast.
Note: This story has been updated to correct the number of teams in the NAHL.