Friday, January 07, 2005

A sign of things to come??

No, this isn't something about the NHL Lockout. If you can't figure out that each side is PRing to their hearts content-- you're lost. This is about what we've been talking about for a while now: minor league hockey overstretching their territorial boundries.

Yesterday, the ECHL announced that the ownership of the fledging Louisiana Ice Gators has been terminated and that the ECHL will assume majority control of the team until private investors in the Louisiana area can be found.

This could be the beginning of a domino effect in the ECHL. The Ice Gators were hurting before the WCHL became absorbed into the ECHL, and now with the, in my opinion, overexpansion of the league has hurt them even more because of travel cost and people not wanting to come out to see the team.

Now, expansion is fine and I don't think many people have an issue of it. But in the case of the ECHL, they grew up too fast and seem to be not filling out into their body. In their first season with the new alignment, the ECHL has 32 teams. Three of them dropped out this season with one in Western Canada, of all places, coming into the league. The problem is that the teams are too spread out for a budget that isn't that of a NHL organization. When you get passed the Mississippi River, the Peoria Rivermen's next closest team West is the Texas Wildcatters whom are 1,015 miles away from each other and Las Vegas being a trite 1,680 miles away from Peoria. On a tight budget as some teams could be, that is a hard pill to swallow.

In the AHL, we've seem the league go from being primarily in the Northeast to making attempts to bridge the gap from the Northeast to Utah. Many teams are moving to other locations, Peoria being one of them moving from Worcester, MA to Peoria to make bridge to the West that much more reachable. With rumors going around about Omaha, NE being the next expansion and with the Dallas Stars moving their AHL team to Des Moines shows the effort to make the AHL more widespread, which will probably be the death of the league.

The best model right now is the SPHL. This is a league who has been through a lot in the past few months, but they have the right business model. They have teams in the Southeastern United States and don't look to expand outside that. With teams in North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee; they keep the travel cost low and the travel only a day trip away.

Minor league hockey is doing well with the NHL Lockout in the fact of getting people to the arena and getting those who are left out in the cold some hockey, but when it is resolved and some people decided not to come back or even with some teams folding up shop; where will they go from there?? The health of minor league hockey depends on the smarts and realistic vision of the leagues executive and the prospective owners of the teams. However, we've seen in the recent past is that the "suits" aren't usually the smartest in the world.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!