Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
February 27, 2017 - ECHL (ECHL)

BASEBALL

Pecos League: The independent Pecos League was planning three four-team divisions for 2017 to include a Southern Division, Northern Division and a new Pacific Division. The league recently announced the Salina (KS) Stockade of the Northern Division will not be part of the 2017 season. The team has been replaced by a travel team called the Hollywood Stars that will be placed in the Pacific Division along with the Tucson Saguaros from the Southern Division to create a six-team Pacific Division. The remaining six teams from the Southern and Northern divisions will be grouped into a new Mountain Division.

Texas League: The mayor of Wichita (KS) has developed plans to replace the city\'s 83-year-old baseball stadium to possibly attract a team in the Double-A Texas League. If financing goes as planned, work could start as early as 2018. Officials in Amarillo (TX) and Lubbock (TX) are also trying to build new stadiums to try to lure the Texas League\'s San Antonio Missions team that could relocate, if San Antonio builds a new stadium for a Triple-A team. The way things are progressing in Amarillo, a new stadium might not be ready until the 2019 season.

BASKETBALL

Florida Basketball Association: The FBA started its 2017 season earlier this month. The league had five teams last season, but the Miami Midnites and Tampa Bay Saints did not return. The Florida Flight (Orlando), Palm Beach Knights and Space Coast Stars (Melbourne) have returned and the league added the Southeast Royals (Jacksonville) and the Bradenton GymRatz, which were part of the 2016 North American Basketball League. Later in the FBA\'s 2017 season, the American Basketball Association\'s St. Petersburg Tide is also on the schedules for some of the FBA teams.

North American Basketball League: The NABL is up to 22 teams listed for its second season that will start in April 2017. Most recently, the NABL added the Wisconsin Thunder and Kenosha (WI) Ballers to the Midwest Conference, while the OKC Hoops have disappeared from the West Conference. The Kenosha Ballers have been part of the Independent Basketball Association for the past several years.

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced a new team called the Middle Georgia Pits (Dublin) has been added as a 2017-18 expansion team. The team will also sponsor a Middle Georgia Lady Pits team that will be part of the Women\'s American Basketball Association, which is expected to start play again in August 2017.

BIG3 League: The proposed new BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league recently announced two more teams called the Killer 3s and the Ghost Ballers. Along with the two other previously announced teams called the Trilogy and 3-Headed Monsters, the league has announced four of the eight touring teams consisting of former National Basketball Association players that will start play in June 2017.

FOOTBALL

National Arena League: The Dayton Wolfpack, one of the NAL\'s eight teams announced for its inaugural 2017, has folded. The team will be replaced by a league-operated travel-only team called the Wolfpack and based out of the Atlanta area. The Wolfpack is expected to play a seven-game road schedule in 2017. Even with its problems in Dayton, the NAL is reported to be considering the addition of two expansion teams for the 2018 season.

Champions Indoor Football: The CIF started its third season this weekend with 14 teams aligned in seven-team North and South conferences. The league had 12 teams last season, but the San Angelo Bandits and Chicago Eagles did not return and new teams called the Centex Cavalry (Belton, TX), Kansas City (MO) Phantoms and Bismarck (ND) Bucks were added, along with the West Michigan Ironmen (Muskegon) from the 2016 American Indoor Football (AIF). The Mesquite Marshals were renamed the Dallas Marshals after the 2016 season. The CIF originally announced a 16-team lineup with four four-team divisions, but that was changed when the Chicago Eagles decided to sit out 2017 and another 2016 AIF team called the River City Raiders (St. Charles, MO) was dropped by the league.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: With the AHL\'s St. John\'s IceCaps moving from Newfoundland to Laval (Quebec) next season, the city has not yet had any success in finding a replacement team in either the ECHL or the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Another AHL team will not expected be an option, as any AHL expansion team that joins with the National Hockey League\'s expansion into Las Vegas will most likely be located in the western United States or western Canada. The IceCaps have been part of the AHL since the 2011-12 season.

ECHL: The ownership of the Anchorage-based Alaska Aces is uncertain as to whether the team will return to the ECHL for next season. The Aces have been suffering from lower attendance over the past few seasons. The team started as the Anchorage Aces and was part of the West Coast Hockey League before the WCHL was merged into the ECHL for the 2003-04 season and the Aces became the Alaska Aces.

Southern Professional Hockey League: A former owner of a hockey team called the Birmingham Bulls, which played nine seasons (1992-2001) in the ECHL, has applied to the SPHL for an expansion franchise to be based in the Birmingham area. The potential owner of the SPHL team would like to use the Birmingham Bulls name if the franchise is approved by the league.

Federal Hockey League: The lower-level minor professional FHL plans to hold a regular-season game next month in Battle Creek (MI) between the league\'s St. Clair Shores (MI) Fighting Saints and Berlin River Drivers. The FHL wants to evaluate the Western Michigan area for a possible future expansion team. The FHL will also hold a regular-season game next month in Winston-Salem (NC), which was previously announced as the home for the 2017-18 FHL expansion team called the Carolina Thunderbirds.

International Developmental Hockey League: The proposed new IDHL, which plans to start play in the 2017-18 season as a senior hockey league with players of ages 20 to 23, will serve as the official development league for the lower-level minor professional Federal Hockey League.

SOCCER

North American Soccer League: The provisional Division-II NASL is still working to place new teams in Orange County and San Diego by the 2018 Spring Season. The proposed operators of the Orange County effort are involved with the Los Angeles Wolves team in the amateur-level United Premier Soccer League and submitted an application to the NASL in November 2016. If the application is accepted, the NASL team plans to use the UPSL\'s Los Angles Wolves as a developmental team and could consider Los Angeles Wolves as the NASL team name.

National Premier Soccer League: The men\'s elite-level NPSL announced the PDX FC, based in Portland (OR), has been added to the West Region\'s Northwest Conference for the 2017 season. Another Portland-based team called the Portland Spartans FC has partnered with the FC Mulhouse France foreign club and the NPSL team has been renamed the FC Mulhouse Portland. The new Northwest Conference team previously announced for Pierce County (WA) will be called the Pierce County FC when it starts play in the 2017 season.

Liga MX: Mexico\'s top soccer league known as the Liga MX started the Clausura portion (closing) of its 2016-17 two-part season early last month with the same 18 teams that participated in the Apertura portion (opening). The Apertura ran from mid-July to mid-November 2016 and the Clausura runs from early January to early May 2017. Based on the total season rankings, one Liga MX team is usually relegated to the Ascenso MX and one team is usually promoted from the Ascenso MX to the Liga MX. The Ascenso MX also started its Clausura portion of the 2016-17 season early last month with the same 18 teams that were part of the Apertura portion.

American Soccer League: The developmental pro ASL has posted its 2017 Spring Season schedule that will feature six teams playing from early April to late June. The ASL had eight teams for its 2017 Fall Season, but the Connecticut United FC, IFK Maryland and Long Island Express are not listed on the new schedule. The AFC Lancaster (PA) Lions, Mass United FC (Lynn/Boston), Philadelphia Fury and New Hampshire Bobcats have returned and the league added two new teams called the Philadelphia Atoms and the Maryland-based SGFC Eagles, also known as the Super Green FC Eagles.

OTHER

Pro12 League: The Ireland-based professional rugby union Pro12 league appears to be moving forward on expansion to 14 teams with the addition of a team in Canada and another in the United States by the 2018-19 season. When Pro12 league does expand to 14 teams, it will be renamed the Guinness Atlantic Rugby Championship and split into two seven-team leagues. Toronto is being mentioned as the home for the Canadian team and New York is the favored location for the United States team. Pro12 currently features 12 teams with four in Ireland, one in Northern Ireland, two in Scotland, four in Wales and one in Italy. The league competes for the European Champions Cup with leagues called the English Premiership and French Top 14.

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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