Commissioner Frankenfeld discusses the 2023-24 season | North American Hockey League | NAHL
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Commissioner Frankenfeld discusses the 2023-24 season

September 28, 2023
by Jordan McAlpine, The Rink Live

Mark Frankenfeld has served as the Commissioner and President of the North American Hockey League since 2007.

The Rink Live caught up with the NAHL boss to discuss the changes the league has seen this summer, recap another successful Showcase and preview the season ahead.

With the NAHL Showcase complete, the 2023-24 season is in full swing as the calendar approaches October.

It’s been a busy summer as the NAHL has added three new teams — the Colorado Grit, New Hampshire Mountain Kings and Rochester Jr. Americans — and expanded its footprint to 32 teams, along with implementing a variety of new technologies into the league.

The Rink Live’s Jordan McAlpine sat down with NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld at Super Rink to discuss the changes the league has seen this summer, recap another successful showcase and preview the season ahead.

Q: First off, how excited are you to get the 2023-24 season underway? And what changes can fans or teams expect this season?

A: We’re extremely excited and honestly once the season gets started, it’s going to give us a break for the first time in a while. We went through a really big transition with our technology this summer and we’ve been working through a lot of bumps and bruises to get everything right. We took over our own branded streaming service, stats service, analytical service and website service, and then once we get started in October our teams are going to have video replay of goals available and every game will have an iPad in the scorekeepers box. So if there’s a questionable goal, we can now review them. The next step will be in November where teams are going to have an iPad on the bench and a second one in the stands. So teams will be able to tag clips, they can go over plays on the bench and most importantly, they’ll be able to instantly educate and coach players. That’s something we’ve been working on over the last few years and our owners really wanted, and everything came together this summer. We have control of our data, control of our content, it’s NAHL-branded and we can help elevate the player experience in our league. We’re giving our players, coaches and teams the best possible resources, and that’s an exciting thing.

Q: Especially as junior hockey continues to evolve and improve, how important is that technology?

A: It’s crucial. Our players are better athletes with technology and they’re stronger, smarter and more in-tune with everything because of the technology they have available. So from our standpoint as a league, we want to make sure we give them those resources but also make sure our technology can promote and present them to the rest of the world, and that’s where the streaming and the video comes in.

Q: How much have you seen the level of play improve in recent years?

A: I think the most telling sign is that there was a day that players would say they would play in the NAHL only if they had to and if they didn’t make it in the USHL. But the reality is it’s now a destination league and guys don’t just use it as a fallback option. The level of play, the level of players, the quality of coaching — all of it is tremendous. Which is especially impressive considering the number of teams that we have and every team has a different way of recruiting or finding players, so kids know there are unique opportunities everywhere.

Q: The NAHL is up to 32 teams and stretches across most of the country… How crazy is it to think how much the league has expanded in your tenure?

A: We’re just like the NHL now, just with an A added in there. But in all seriousness, it’s crazy to think about it. When I coached in the league in 1992 and then when I rejoined the league in the early 2000s, there were 10-12 teams. And it’s certainly been interesting, but we’ve grown so much and every organization we’ve added has been very dedicated to the product and they want to provide the players and the community something. Even the three new teams we’ve added here, they’ve been competitive right off the bat and their presentation has been tremendous and their buildings were full. So there’s been questions and concerns over the years about how much our league can grow, but I’ve always told people we can grow as much as we can, as long as we have the right people in place, and we have that around the league right now.

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