Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Minor Leagues, Major Movement

If you have listened to the show in the past month, you will realize we pride ourselves in our coverage of minor league teams demise. Sure, it's a little cynical to think about that as one of our bright spots, but we're a little on the cynical side. In any case, that trend will continue this week as a couple teams in the AHL have decided to say good-bye to their AHL affiliate.

The Edmonton Roadrunners will suspend operations for the '05-'06 season and there are rumors that the San Antonio Rampage will suspend their operations as well. For the AHL, they will be down to 26 teams for next season as of right now. Along with Edmonton and San Antonio, Utah and Cincinnati will be done for next season. Even with four new cities coming in (Peoria, Omaha, Des Moines, Toronto), the AHL loses those four other cities and Worchester, who will move to Peoria. This coupled with the unknown fate of the Cleveland franchise wouldn't make Dave Andrews a happy camper. However, this does show that going that far West didn't work out for the better of the AHL's long-standing future.

The ECHL is in a little better shape-- albeit barely better. They will lose the Pee Dee (SC) franchise only to have them move to Myrtle Beach. However, we don't know if that will be the real story or if it'll all fall apart. In addition to Pee Dee, the Louisiana Ice Gators have suspended operations for the next season, the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies will move to Stockton (CA) for next season, the expansion Gulf Coast Swords needed another season to get their stuff together, and the fate of the Toledo Storm is still up in the air. However, the ECHL is going to Phoenix (AZ) for the next season.

Staying with the ECHL, it would almost make sense to have the league split into two different factions again, then play for the Kelly Cup in the end of the regular season. When you look at the geography (not to mention the budget as well), it would seem that for the betterment of the league and AA hockey that the league split up. Granted, there is only 11 teams now, but there is rumors around that the Utah Hockey Contingent is looking to get into the ECHL for '05-'06. If that were to happen, you would have 12 teams (6 in each Division), and then at least 14 for the Eastern side of things, then in the final; West faces East. However, that would be too simple for the grand scheme of things.

Moving to the UHL-- you want to talk about an odd situation for the league-- the Port Huron Beacons will be moving to Roanoke Valley and becoming the Vipers. All is lost for Port Huron, right?? No-- they will get an expansion team and name it the Flags. So, instead of losing another team, along with the Kansas City Outlaws, the Port Huron community gets a new team and seemingly a new start with new owners and all. Of course, Elmira (NY) is rumored to be demising soon, but that's been around for a while.

The UHL is an interesting animal because of the fact that the league started out as a Midwest hockey league which would be a just one rung below the ECHL on the AA level of the game. However, because the want to make a name for themselves, they expand to the Northeast and to the Mid-Atlantic. This could spell doom for the teams who don't have the major money that some other owners have in ways of transportation and such. The UHL hasn't had the best of luck in the past few years (see Columbus Stars incident), but maybe they could turn things around and have people take them truly seriously.

Moving onto the CHL, this could be the weirdest movement ever. The New Mexico Scorpions suspended operations for the '05-'06 Season so they can wait for their new arena to be built. So instead of the team playing and getting some sort of revenue into their system to build for the next season-- they'll lie dormant and try to start up again. Along with New Mexico, the San Angelo Saints will not continue their stint in the CHL because of money issues. The Topeka Tarantulas shut the doors just after one season. You could see this trend continue with the addtion of the Youngstown (OH) Steelhounds to the mix.

Finally, the SPHL did reasonably well in the first season, but not enough to save them from losing some teams. The league runners-up, the Macon Trax, suspended operations; as did the lowly Winston-Salem Polar Twins. That, along with the threat of Ashville (NC) being kicked out if they cannot sign a lease with their arena, puts a damper on the arrival of the Pee Dee (SC) and the Florida teams. The SPHL had a great design for the league, much like the CHL did. They have a centralized base for teams to not have much travel. However, much like the CHL, they could commit business suicide if they continue to expand outside of their financial boundries.

Now, it may seem like I'm pointing out the downfalls of the minor league hockey and bashing it for going outside it's bounds. Not exactly. Sure, leagues like the AHL, ECHL and UHL have made mistakes in where they would put their teams and how much the travel would have to work into the budget, but that's just my common hockey sense coming through. All the leagues have exceeded the expectation that their forefathers thought of when they started their leagues.

There are some teams in trouble, but that's because they don't get enough support to make ends meet. People need to get out and SYLHT (Support Your Local Hockey Team) if you want to keep them for generations to come. The game itself could rival that of the old NHL we have seen and it could actually be more exciting than you would expect hockey to be.

However, if you don't go out and SYLHT, then you may never get a chance to see how good the game play really is. No one is exempt from losing out. Most of the teams I named have a various history when it comes to minor league hockey. That not withstanding-- they still had to pull out of their respective leagues for one reason or another. It's a crying shame in the long-run. Just SYLHT and show them you really care. They won't disappoint.

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

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