This is a VERY bizarre post...Do you even follow ND youth or HS hockey...at all?
Cando has not had a Jr. Gold team since like 1999...haha. They provide 0-3 players a year to DL. Also, if it takes the combination of Shanley, Fargo South, AND Oak Grove to make one small team that can barely provide a JV team, then how is Shanley going to provide one on their own? Same thing goes for St. Mary's and Minot Ryan etc....there are not even close to enough numbers available, so that'll never happen. Keep those smaller schools feeding the bigger schools where needed. Side note---also, where the heck did you get the idea that WF schools are dominate at hockey? Take a quick look at the past 10-12 years of HS hockey and see how well those "undermanned" teams you listed stack up against WF even before they split. I can assure you Grafton and DL have done more than hold their own against the mighty WF teams. Grafton is going to be a little down, but they always hang around the top 4-5 in the East while making it to state fairly often and even won state most recently in 2008. DL also holds their own in the east and are WELL above .500 against WF teams in recent years. They also make it to state pretty routinely....unlike WF. Hell even Jamestown is probably above .500 against WF in recent years....but yes I agree with your comment when it comes to Wahpeton I guess.
Here is my take:
YES to creating 2 divisions. Finding the line between A and AA will be tough and will have to be open to adjustments each year just like ND HS football is with it's divisions. Team strength will shift and change, so the division line will need to shift and change as well. I think by creating these 2 divisions, we could eliminate the struggling Jr. Gold league and pull them into the HS league. Yes I understand that those are clubs and not affiliated with their school systems, so that'll be a major hurdle, but I'm just spit balling here and dreaming a little.But this new setup could also get Wahp/Breck back into the mix to get ND up to around 22-25 teams to work with rather than 18-19. NO to combining teams by city/town. That would just be silly and would turn HS hockey into a summer league and would only exacerbate the larger town skills/numbers gap even further. As of right now AA could be 12 teams, but most years 8-10 teams.
AA - Minot, DL-Cando, Grafton-PR, Red River, Central, Bismarck High, Bismarck Century, Fargo Davies, Fargo South/Shanley, Fargo North, WF, and WF Shyenne
Every team would have to play each other at least once for league points, but scheduling beyond that could be open to out of state games to get some MN competition if that's wanted. Playing some of these teams more than once because of distance, scheduling ease, or past rivalry/history would be fair game as well (fargo schools vs fargo schools, RR vs Central, BC vs BHS etc. etc.) but those would be non-league games.
With this setup the travel would actually be pretty easy. The furthest trips would be GF to Bismarck or Minot to Fargo, which isn't horrible. For playoffs there would be no pre-state tourney, so top 8 teams would go to state and be seeded by place in standings (tie-breaker rules applied). The 4 teams that were eliminated would play in a consolation tournament at the same time as state. Maybe even throw the winner of the A team in there somehow?? That might be far fetched...but anyway, this might be a good filter/sorter for helping figure out where the division line should be. Teams winning the A division often would get moved up and teams losing in the consolation tourney too often would get moved down.
A North- Crosby, Williston, Watford City, Bott-Rugby, Langdon-Cavalier, Grand Forks JV (if possible somehow), Mayport-Hillsboro
A South- Dickinson, Hazen-Beulah, Mandan, Bismarck JV, Jamestown-Valley City, Fargo JV, Wahp/Breck
For travel sake East-West would work better, but for competition-wise I thought North-South looked a little more even...maybe?
Play each team in your division at least 2 times and then again have an 8 team state tournament based off the top 4 teams from each division. 5 teams would be eliminated at the end of the season. Again this would open up a lot of out of state games for MN and SD...even Canada. Also would leave open schedule spots for games against closer teams from the north/south. Might work
Seems a little messy but it might create some excitement in ND HS hockey. Teams that never have a chance to make it to state could have a chance at winning a state championship.