The city of Casper formally welcomed the Casper Coyotes hockey franchise to the community on Thursday.

The expansion team will begin play next season in the Western States Hockey League, which currently has 24 teams in four divisions. The league primarily feeds college and upper-level amateur junior organizations.

“It is just the tip of the iceberg,” Casper mayor Paul Meyer said. “I look forward to years of expansion and fun in the hockey realm.”

Meyer was one of several city dignitaries in attendance for the Thursday morning press conference.

Coyotes general manager and head coach John Ambrefe said fans can expect a high caliber of play.

“A lot of these players you may look at two or three years down the road and say, ‘I remember when they played for the Casper Coyotes, and now they’re playing in the minor league pro system or they’re playing in college,’” Ambrefe said.

According to the team’s website, over 20 players have been signed to the inaugural team, including local products Brady Griffin and Matt Loundigan.

The WSHL is currently home to the Cheyenne Stampede. Several teams are also located in Colorado, Utah and Montana.

The Coyotes will play their first game on Sept. 19. Season tickets are on sale through the team's website.

The team will play its home games at the Casper Ice Arena.

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