Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
October 17, 2016 - Arena Football League (AFL)

BASEBALL

Arizona Fall League: The six-team AzFL, which is owned and operated by Major League Baseball, started its 2016 season that will run from October 11 to November 17, 2016. All teams are based in and around the Phoenix area and each team has prospects from five different MLB teams. The East Division features the Mesa Solar Sox, Salt River Rafters and Scottsdale Scorpions, while the West Division includes the Glendale Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas and Surprise Saguaros.

American Association: The independent AA announced that the 2016 team called the Texas AirHogs, which played home games in both Amarillo and Grand Prairie, will not play any games in Amarillo next season due to objections from league members over the condition of the stadium. The AirHogs are expected to play all home games in Grand Prairie next season. The lower-level independent Pecos League is considering placement of a team in Amarillo next season.

Pecos League: Now that the American Association has dropped the Joplin (MO) Blasters, the head of the independent Pecos League is talking with the city about possibly establishing a new team called the Joplin Miners. The Pecos League has also expressed interest in the Bakersfield (CA) market, since that city recently lost the Bakersfield Blaze of the affiliated high Class-A California League, and the Amarillo market that was recently dropped by the American Association for the 2017 season.

Northwoods League: The new summer-collegiate Northwoods League team to be located in Bismarck (ND) for the 2017 will be called the Bismarck Larks. The league's new 2017 team to be based in Fond-du-Lac (WI) announced five new potential nicknames: Barn Owls, Dock Spiders, Lake Flies, Pipsqueaks and Shantymen.

Southwest League of Professional Baseball: Royce City (TX), which is just northeast of Dallas, is moving forward with initial planning for a new ballpark that would become home to a SWL team. The league plans to start play in 2018 with six Texas-based teams. BASKETBALL

Universal Basketball Association: The Hamilton (OH) Heroes team that played in the inaugural 2016 season of the Midwest Basketball League, is switching to the UBA for its 2016-17 season.

American Basketball Association: The Libertyville (IL) Vipers announced the team will return to the ABA for the 2016-17 season as the Vipers Pro Basketball Team. The Libertyville Vipers played the 2014-15 season in the ABA, but were not part of the league last season. FOOTBALL

Arena Football League: The AFL held a dispersal draft for players from the Jacksonville Sharks, Los Angeles KISS, Portland Steel and Orlando Predators teams that are no longer part of the league. The Jacksonville Sharks plan to join another league, but the other three teams have apparently ceased operations. The other four teams from the 2016 season, the Arizona Rattlers, Tampa Bay Storm, Cleveland Gladiators, and Philadelphia Soul, plus the expansion Washington (DC) Valor, participated in the 2017 player draft.

Champions Indoor Football: The CIF announced it has added the River City Raiders (St. Charles, MO) as its 16th team for the 2017 season. The River City Raiders started out as the Missouri Monsters in the 2013 United Indoor Football League and played two seasons (2014-15) as the St. Louis Attack in X-League Indoor Football before moving to American Indoor Football as the River City Raiders for the 2016 season. The CIF will grow from 12 to 16 teams aligned into 4 four-team divisions for the 2017 season.

Can-Am Indoor Football League: The proposed new CAIFL has again updated its league alignment that features ten teams. The Eastern Division includes the Baltimore Lightning, Connecticut Chiefs, Glens Falls (NY) Gladiators, New Hampshire Brigade and Vermont Bucks. The Western Division has the Reading (PA) Raptors and four New York-based teams called the Buffalo Blitz, Lockport Lightning, Niagara Spartans and Rochester Kings. The CAIFL plans to start play in 2017.

United States Indoor Football: The proposed new semi-pro USIF plans to start its inaugural season next summer with four teams playing all games at the Savannah Civic Center. The current team listing includes the Coastal Outlaws (Savannah), Hardeeville (SC) Tiger Sharks, Myrtle Beach (SC) Masters and Hinesville (GA) Hurricanes.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: The 30-team AHL, which has each team affiliated with a team in the National Hockey League, started its 2016-17 season this week. Prior to the 2016-17 season, the Springfield (MA) Falcons were sold and relocated to become the Tucson Roadrunners. The Portland (ME) Pirates moved to the vacated Springfield market and became the Springfield Thunderbirds. The Lake Erie Monsters were renamed the Cleveland Monsters. Also, the AHL approved the sale of the Binghamton (NY) Senators to the owner of the NHL's Ottawa Senators and the team will be relocated to become the Belleville (Ontario) Senators for the 2017-18 season.

ECHL: The AA-level ECHL started its 2016-17 season this week with 27 teams. The league had 28 teams last season, but the Evansville IceMen decided to sit out the 2016-17 season as the team attempted to move to Owensboro (KY) for next season. The Eastern and Western conferences were reduced to two divisions each for this season. The Eastern Conference lost the East Division and consists of a six-team North Division and a seven-team South Division. The Western Conference lost the West Division and consists of a seven-team Mountain Division and a seven-team Central Division.

Professional Inline Hockey Association: Last month, the PIHA started its 2016-17 season that runs until mid-January 2017. The Pro Division has a ten-team Atlantic Division and a four-team Rocky Mountain Division, while the Semi-Pro Division has a twelve-team Atlantic Division and a five-team Rocky Mountain Division. The PIHA first started play in 2002.

Major League Roller Hockey "" Super League: The MLRH is wrapping up the 2016 season of its summertime Super League. The East included teams called the Chicago Windy City Hustlers, Detroit Phoenix, Pittsburgh Steel, Ohio River Monsters and DC Filibusters, while the West included teams called the LA Pama Cyclones, Orange County Cowboys, Las Vegas Knights, South Coast Savage, San Diego Clutch Hosers and SoCal Phantoms. This is the third year of the MLRH Super League.

World League of Roller Hockey: Major League Roller Hockey (MLRH) plans to start the new non-checking WLRH in January 2017. The WLRH will include North American teams from its winter Pro Tour along with various European roller hockey teams. The WLRH will replace the MLRH Pro Tour.

SOCCER

Premier Arena Soccer League: The PASL has added the Arena FC, based in Colorado Springs, to its Rocky Mountain Division for the 2016-17 season.

North American Soccer League: The Tier-II NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury FC are reported to be considering a move to the Tier-III United Soccer League for the 2017 season.

Major League Soccer: The Charlotte Independence of the United Soccer League is trying to renovate the local Memorial Stadium for the USL team, but the team is also seeking additional investors to eventually make a bid for one of the future MLS expansion franchises.

OTHER

Pro Rugby: After completing its inaugural 2016 season with five teams, the North American professional rugby league known as Pro Rugby plans to expand to eight teams for its second season. The league will be aligned into a West Coast Conference and a Midwest/East Conference.

Pacific Rugby Premiership: Four elite-level rugby teams from the PRP, which played a winter-spring schedule the past three years, will be part of a new six-team competition called the California Cup from December 2016 through January 2017. The goal of the California Cup is to prepare elite rugby players for the Pro Rugby league season that starts in the spring. The PRP announced plans to switch to a fall season in 2017 so its schedule does not conflict with the Pro League season. All of the PRP teams from the past three seasons are expected to return to the PRP in 2017.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames 2015-16: "The Leagueology Almanac" , which tracks the changes in league alignments, franchise movements and team nicknames in today's sports world. The publication is available for sale at www.amazon.com.


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