After years of speculation, the American Hockey League is finally moving westward. At a press conference today in San Jose, the league and several team officials announced the relocation of five East Coast franchises to California, creating the long-awaited Pacific Division. The ECHL will also receive a bit of a shake up, with some California teams moving east to start playing in the soon-to-be former AHL markets.
Entries in minor league hockey (8)
From 1998 through 2000, the American Hockey League had what was known as the Empire Division. It consisted mostly of New York teams (hence "Empire"), and the not-even-from-America Hamilton Bulldogs. I like to make the case that now is the time to bring back the Empire Division. There's more teams in New York than there were in the late 90s, and for some reason years and years of AHL realignment leaves both Charlotte, NC, and Rochester, NY with Western Conference teams. Then again, there was also one year where the entire Empire Division was in the West (beforehand it was an unbalenced setting of 3 in the East and 1 in the West). Rochester, Albany, Syracuse, and Binghamton are still around, plus now you have Utica, and a new team in Glens Falls, since the Phantoms bolted for (Le)high(Valley)er grounds (that was painful but necessary). This new team is the former Abbotsford Heat, affiliated with Calgary, which should make for a GREAT rivalry with the nearby Utica Comets, affiliated with Vancouver. But lets get to the point here. The Heat need a rebrand, and I have just the idea for them. I hope you're listening, Flames.
Minor league teams fold with semi-regular occurrence. Most wait until the off-season to do so, but occasionally, the costs associated with running a pro franchise grow to levels too big to endure and you have a situation like the San Francisco Bulls. The ECHL(AA level hockey) team announced to season-ticket holders on Monday afternoon, with three months left in the season, they were ceasing operations immediately, via an email obtained by CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz.
With the temporary takeover of the Devils by the NHL due to financial concerns, my first worry was that they'd face the same fate as the Montreal Expos, letting big money players leave (hey, wait a minute..) and eventually leaving town for what would be a third time. Remember the KC Scouts and the Colorado Rockies? No, the old Colorado Rockies. The Devils began in Kansas City and spent a few years in Denver before settling in New Jersey.
Congrats to the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. We'll run down the finals as well as the rest of the season. Also, we run through each champion in the minor leagues and the changes coming for franchises.