Bloomington, IL 61701
About Central Illinois Flying Aces
Formerly known as the Bloomington Thunder, the Central Illinois Flying Aces announced its new name on Aug. 24, 2017 before revealing its new logo, color scheme and jerseys at the Bloomington Labor Day Parade on Sept. 4, 2017.
Unlike the teams before it that competed in semi-professional leagues, the Flying Aces are a member of the only Tier 1 junior hockey league in the country, the United States Hockey League (USHL). Comprised of 17 teams divided into a nine-team Eastern Conference and an eight-team Western Conference, the USHL is a gateway to college hockey for a vast majority of the league’s players.
In addition to serving as one of the primary feeding systems for college hockey, the USHL also develops emerging NHL talent. Each June, there are between 30-40 current USHL players who are selected at the NHL Draft. Among those drafted in the 2017 NHL Draft were three players from the then-Thunder: Ben Mirageas, Nick Leivermann and Wyatt Kalynuk, all of whom played for the Thunder during the 2016-17 season. At the 2016 NHL Draft, Mitchell Mattson and Jeremy Davies were both selected, becoming the first two draft selections in team history. Both Mattson and Davies played for the Aces during the 2015-16 campaign. With notable league alumni such as Patrick Sharp, Johnny Gaudreau, and Auston Matthews, among others, the USHL puts its players on the fast track to immediate success at both the college and NHL levels.
WHAT IS JUNIOR HOCKEY?
There are three different tiers of junior hockey in the United States with Tier III being the lowest level of junior hockey and Tier I being the highest level. Tier III includes 10 different leagues, while Tier II is comprised by two leagues (North American Hockey League & NCDC). Tier I is the zenith of junior hockey in the United States and its only league is the USHL.
Contrary to many misconceptions, the level of play at the USHL level far exceeds the quality of play at the high school or youth hockey association levels, despite the fact that the teams in the USHL are composed of players of a similar age. Players in the USHL range in age from 16-20-years-old and use junior hockey as a transitionary period from high school or midget hockey to Division I college hockey or the NHL. On average, 95 percent of those who play in the USHL will go on to play college hockey, a vast majority of which make the jump to the Division I level within 1-2 seasons in the USHL.
Although there are a handful of players who verbally commit to college teams before starting in the USHL, many players use the league as a stepping stone to playing college hockey. The USHL provides a level of exposure for players that is unrivaled in the other two tiers of junior hockey. At any given USHL game, there could be multiple college coaches recruiting players in addition to a host of NHL scouts looking for the next potential first-round draft pick.
There is always something fun happening at Flying Aces Hockey!