After a long period of negotiation the West-North DI league looks set to start this coming weekend, with six teams spanning three states with the most distant cities being almost 1,000 miles apart.
Four teams from Colorado will be in the league – the Denver Barbarians, Denver Highlanders, Glendale Raptors, and Boulder.
All four expect to be competitive. Denver rejoins DI after the elimination of the Super League, while the Raptors are the national DI runners up. The Highlanders are undergoing an extensive administrative overhaul that is translating to better recruiting and performance on the field, and Boulder continues to improve.
The other two teams are the Kansas City Blues and Provo. The Blues are undergoing a coaching change, and it’s a critical time for time. The Blues were 4-1-1 in the league last season, when only four teams were in it. They tied Glendale and could be poised to make a big step forward. But with some changes behind the whistle, they remain a question-mark.
The other team is Provo, out of Utah. The Steelers have struggled to maintain competitive continuity in the last four years, trying to play within the Northern California structure, spearheading a Utah-based DI league that lasted a year, and, just as they were geting strong, dealing with the formation of a competing club that hardly lasted, as well. With the Utah Warriors no more, the Utah Brothers quietly assessing what to do next, and the new Islanders and returning Haggis in DII, Provo is all on its own.
“We have a good team and a lot of good players,” said club spokesman Dave Valeti. “But we need more structure, both in club organization and on the field. It will be good for us to be exposed to the clubs and playing in a more structured game. It will make us a better team.”
Valeti said the Steelers are committed to making the travel to complete its schedule, and to be fair the team always has been able to make its trips. But playing on the road will be a challenge and playing a split season is new for Provo.
The West-North schedule seems to have been designed to make it easiest on everyone. Only one team, the Barbarians, is expected to travel to Provo and KC in the same season. The Barbarians can handle it. The other three Colorado teams have only one out-of-state away game.
Provo is expected to travel just twice – both times to Colorado, which is drivable – in their first year. Same with KC, which goes to Glendale and Provo.
Next year, the league will likely have to deal with Aspen joining, and further complications of travel. Atr the same time, many hope to see Utah form its own league by then.
“The number of athletes and level of athletes in Utah is very high,” said Valeti.
If the Islanders – who are chaffing under a probation that keeps them out of the playoffs this season – and Haggis get back into action with some success, and the Utah Brothers regroup, Utah might be able to get its own league going. But they need the organization, and the West-North has that, and games to play, for now.
Boulder is slated to visit the Kansas City Blues this weekend to start league play.