Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
December 27, 2016 - ECHL (ECHL)

BASEBALL

Pecos League: After announcing two new California-based teams called the Bakersfield Train Robbers and High Desert YardBirds (Adelanto), the independent Pecos League is looking to add two additional California-based teams called the California City Whiptails and Monterey Amberjacks to create a new four-team Pacific Division for the 2017 season. Eight of ten teams from last season are returning and will comprise four-team Northern and Southern divisions. Two Kansas-based teams called the Topeka Train Robbers and the Great Bend Boom will not return in 2017 after playing only one season in the league.

New York-Penn League: The Staten Island Yankees of the short-season Class-A New York-Penn League have decided to postpone an announced rebranding of the team and will remain the Staten Island Yankees for the 2017 season. The team had a selected new name, but the approval process and licensing for the new name would not have been ready for the 2017 season. In September 2016, the team announced five nickname choices for name-the-team voting: the Staten Island Bridge Trolls, Staten Island Heroes, Staten Island Killer Bees, Staten Island Pizza Rats and Staten Island Rock Pigeons.

Atlantic League: The ballpark lease of the Atlantic League's Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish team expired just after the 2016 season, but the city recently approved a temporary one-year lease that will keep the team in the city for the 2017 season.

Northwoods League: A developer is trying to buy an old dog track in Hudson (WI) to build a ballpark for a potential team in the summer-collegiate Northwoods League.

Futures Collegiate Baseball League: The summer-collegiate FCBL will operate with only nine teams as the league's Torrington (CT) Toros team will sit out the 2017 season.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Development League (D-League): The city of Oshkosh (WI) has confirmed it is looking to construct a new arena to attract a D-League team to be operated by the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks were expected to name the location for its D-League team this fall from a list of three potential Wisconsin cities - Oshkosh, Racine and Sheboygan. The Bucks have apparently decided to delay this announcement for now. Racine also wants to build a new arena, while Sheboygan has talked of renovating an older local arena. With the recent sale and relocation of the D-League's Erie Bayhawks to Lakeland (FL), the city of Erie is trying to obtain another D-League team. The current trend for D-League teams is to be directly owned by an NBA team and located near the NBA city, but Erie does not fit geographically for the seven NBA teams without a current direct D-League affiliation.

Tobacco Road Basketball League: The semi-pro TRBL started its 2016-17 season last month with six teams listed on various schedules. Teams include the High Point (NC) Heat, Bull City Legacy (Durham, NC), Cary (NC) Invasion and Greensboro (NC) Cobras from last season; the All-American Ballers (Fayetteville, NC) team that last played a full TRBL season in 2014-15; and the new Atlanta's Dynamite All Stars. The league had ten teams last season, but the Lumberton (NC) Showstoppers, Wilmington Sea Dawgs, Auburn (AL) Pro Elite Flyers, Charlotte Elite, Huntersville (NC) HoopForLyfe and Raleigh Revolt are not listed on the 2016-17 schedule. The Lumberton Showstoppers left for the East Coast Basketball League, which plays more of a springtime season, while the Auburn Pro Elite Flyers are listed as an at-large team in the American Basketball Association. The TRBL season runs to mid-April 2017.

FOOTBALL

Elite Indoor Football Conference: The proposed new EIFC recently announced three new Florida-based teams called the Polk County Venom, Lake Park Tigers and Florida Wranglers have been added to the league. The EIFC plans to start play in 2017 and currently lists seven Florida-based teams as members.

Elite Indoor Football: The proposed new EIF has added a team called the Roanoke (VA) Militia for its inaugural 2017 season. The team says 2017 will be a building season with 2018 being its first full season.

The Spring League: The proposed new instructional football league called The Spring League plans to be a developmental platform for professional football talent. The league will start play with four teams playing a total of six games in April 2017. All games and practices will be held at the Greenbrier Resort's football facility in White Sulphur Springs (WV), about 120 miles southeast of Charleston. Teams will be comprised of veteran free agents looking to showcase their skills for National Football League teams. The Spring League will be run by private investors and is not affiliated with the National Football League.

HOCKEY

ECHL: The city of Reno (NV) has approved funds to add a professional ice surface to the Reno Events Center for a potential ECHL team that could start play in 2018, if approved. Prior to the 2003-04 season, the ECHL obtained an inactive Reno-based expansion franchise when the former West Coast Hockey League (WCHL) was merged into the ECHL. The dormant WCHL expansion team was to be called the Reno Raiders and the owner of the Reno expansion rights kept up with ECHL league dues for ten-plus years, but was unable to build a new arena and that Reno expansion effort was eventually dropped.

United States Premier Hockey League: The junior-level USPHL announced that teams called the Boston Bandits, Northern Cyclones, New Jersey Rockets, Hartford Jr. Wolfpack, New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs and Connecticut Nighthawks will leave the Tier-III junior-level Eastern Hockey League and join the USPHL for the 2017-18 season. The USPHL also plans to create a new tuition-free junior hockey division called the National Collegiate Development Conference for the 2017-18 season.

Manitoba Junior Hockey League: The Opaskwayak Cree Nation Blizzard, or the OCN Blizzard, from Canada's Junior-A Manitoba Junior Hockey League announced the team will folding at the end of this season.

SOCCER

National Women's Soccer League: There has been recent talk of potential expansion in the professional NWSL. The owner of the men's Carolina RailHawks (Cary, NC) in the North American Soccer League recently renamed the team the North Carolina FC with plans to bring a future Major League Soccer (MLS) team to Raleigh and a women's NWSL team in the next six months. A women's pro soccer team called the Carolina Courage was based in Cary for its three seasons (2001-03) in the former Women's United Soccer Association. An investor group is looking to build a new soccer complex in suburban Atlanta that could be used to attract a team in the NWSL and a lower-division men's team. One of the investors was at one time trying to organize a potential NWSL expansion team to be called the Atlanta Vibe. The city had two previous women's pro soccer teams called the Atlanta Beat. One team played three seasons (2001-03) in the former WUSA and another played two seasons (2010-11) in the former pro league called Women's Professional Soccer (WPS). There has been talk of the San Jose Earthquakes in the MLS eventually hosting a future NWSL team out of its new soccer stadium. The area had the Bay Area CyberRays/San Jose CyberRays for three seasons (2001-03) in the former WUSA and the San Jose-based FC Gold Pride for two seasons (2009-10) in the former WPS.

North American Soccer League: The NASL needs to keep its Division-II status for the league to survive, but the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) has again delayed a final decision as to whether the NASL or the current Division-III United Soccer League will be sanctioned as a Division-II league for next season. The ownership of the NASL's Fort Lauderdale Strikers says it is moving forward to sell the team to PSG Academy Florida, which has operated the FC Miami City club in the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League for the past two seasons.

United Soccer Leagues - Premier Development League: The PDL's Redmond-based Washington Crossfire team has reportedly been sold to a group that would move the team to Vancouver (British Columbia) for next season. The club joined the PDL for the 2010 season when the PDL's Seattle Wolves FC merged with the Crossfire Premier club to form the Washington Crossfire.

Evergreen Premier League of Washington: The Oly Town Artesians (Olympia, WA) will join the men's elite-level EPLWA for the 2017 season. The Artesians currently operate an indoor team as part of the Western Indoor Soccer League. The league will remain at eight teams as the Artesians replace the departed Wenatchee FC Capitals.

Western Indoor Soccer League: The amateur-level WISL, which has all teams located in the state of Washington, started its third season last month with six teams. The league had seven teams last season, but the Vancouver Victory did not return. The six teams for the 2016-17 season include the Bellingham United FC Hammers, Oly Town Artesians (Olympia), Olympic Force FC (Bremerton), Snohomish Skyhawks, Sporting Everett FC and Tacoma Stars Reserves. The WISL seasons run to mid-February 2017.

OTHER

PRO Rugby: After announcing the shutdown of the San Francisco Rush last week, the professional rugby league known as PRO Rugby has terminated all player contracts and the future of the league looks bleak.

Major League Ultimate: The MLU professional disc league, which has played with eight teams since it started in 2013, announced it will suspend operations for the 2017 season. The MLU was a single-entity operation with central investors running the teams and it had lost ground over the past few seasons to the competing American Ultimate Disc League, which consisted of individual franchise owners running each team.

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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