The Marquette Rangers and the Traverse City North Stars have agreed to terms for a challenge series between the two North Division teams.
The Smith-Barney Challenge Cup will be an annual event and will begin this year at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City on Saturday, Oct. 6.
"This will greatly enhance what's already become terrific rivalry," said Rangers president-GM David Saint-Onge. "A challenge series like this gives one team bragging rights at the end of the year, which we believe will make our games against one another even more enjoyable for the fans and players of both organizations.
"Since we play one other 12 times during the season, it will also keep the games fresh for all involved due to the added incentive of winning the trophy."
NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld hailed the decision as a real positive for the league, and the Challenge Cup will be something the NAHL supports completely.
"The rivalries that have developed in our league over the years have helped establish the NAHL as one of the top junior leagues in the country," Frankenfeld said. "The Challenge Cup series between Marquette and Traverse City is extra special because of the long, storied roots the North American Hockey League has in Michigan."
The Smith-Barney Challenge Cup will be displayed at each game between the two teams and will be decided on the same point system used by the NAHL: two points for a win, one point for an overtime appearance, zero points for a loss. The winning team will retain the trophy for the off-season. In the event of a tie, the trophy will go with the winner of the final game.
Rangers head coach Randy Enders agrees that having the Challenge Cup to play for is something his players will take seriously.
"Any time you have a trophy or a piece of hardware involved it makes a difference," Enders said. "Take a look at games like the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe (Wisconsin vs. Minnesota) or the Little Brown Jug in college football and how much pride the players of those teams take in winning those things. This may not be to that level yet because it's new, but it's something our team will be proud to fight for, as it's a benefit not only to our club, but to our city as well."
The Smith-Barney Challenge Cup was donated by Smith-Barney offices in both Marquette and Traverse City and will be engraved with the winning team at the end of each season