Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
March 6, 2017 - ECHL (ECHL)

BASEBALL

Frontier League: A memorandum of understanding between Jackson County (MI) and a group trying to build a proposed ballpark for a Frontier League team has expired. The potential ownership group needed more financing for the project and funding from a ballpark naming rights deal did not materialize in time.

Empire Pro Baseball League: The Empire League recently announced its 2017 season schedule that will start on June 23, 2017 and will again feature four teams. New teams called the Plattsburgh (NY) Red Birds and the Puerto Rico Islanders will replace two non-returning 2016 teams called the Watertown (NY) Bucks and the New Hampshire Wild. The two returning teams for 2017 are the Sullivan (NY) Explorers and Old Orchard Beach (ME) Surge. The Puerto Rico Islanders will play its entire 2017 schedule as a travel team.

Pacific Coast League: The El Paso Chihuahuas team in the Triple-A PCL will be called the El Paso Diablos as part of a special Diablos Days Wednesdays promotion on Wednesday home games during the 2017 season. The promotion is a tribute to the former El Paso Diablos team that played for years in the Double-A Texas League before moving to become the Springfield (MO) Cardinals for the 2005 season.

Liga Mexicana de Beisbol: The 16-team Triple-A level LMB, or Mexican Baseball League, will start its 2017 season at the end of the month with two off-season team relocations. The Reynosa Broncos have moved to Leon (Guanajuato) as the Leon Bravos and the Ciudad del Carmen Delfines have relocated to become the Durango Generales for the 2017 season.

Northwoods League: The summer-collegiate Northwoods League has granted the city of Huron (SD) affiliate status after recently approving the city\'s application to the league. A Huron-based team could start play in the near future.

BASKETBALL

East Coast Basketball League: The ECBL started its 2017 season this weekend with 15 teams aligned into a Southern Conference with a three-team Northeast Division and a four-team Northwest Division, and a Northern Conference with a four-team Southeast Division and a four-team Southwest Division. The league had 12 teams last season, but Carolina MPact (Anson County, NC), Fayetteville (NC) Crossover and Raleigh-Durham United Raptors did not return. The league added six new teams called the Carolina Thunder (Dillon, SC), Carolina Kings (Greenville, SC), Hampton Roads (VA) Warriors, North Carolina Coyotes (Raleigh), Florence (SC) Wildcats and Charlotte Golden Bulls. The Columbia (SC) Crusaders are now the Carolina Crusaders and the Fort Gordon (GA) Eagles are now the Augusta (GA) Eagles. The ECBL regular season runs from early March to early June 2017.

BIG3 League: The proposed new BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league recently announced another new team called Tri-State has been added. The league has now announced five of the eight touring teams consisting of former National Basketball Association players that will start play in June 2017.

FOOTBALL

Can-Am Indoor Football League: The proposed new CAIFL plans to start its inaugural season later this month, but the Lockport (NY) Lightning has disappeared from the league\'s Western Division and the league is down to nine teams. Three of those teams called the Boston Blaze, Connecticut Chiefs (New Haven) and Glens Falls (NY) Gladiators are only scheduled for three to four road games in 2017.

Legends Football League: The LFL USA, which was formerly called the Lingerie Football League, has posted its 2017 season schedule that will again feature eight teams. Two 2016 expansions teams called the Dallas Desire and New England Liberty (Manchester, NH) ceased operations after last season. The new Pittsburgh Rebellion has replaced New England in the Eastern Conference and the new Denver Dream has replaced the Dallas Desire in the Western Conference. The LFL season runs from mid-April to early August 2017 with each team playing a four-game schedule. The LFL had a previous team called the Denver Dream that played in the league\'s inaugural 2009-10 season before ceasing operations.

National Football League: Although the NFL\'s Oakland Raiders are still trying to move to a proposed new stadium in Las Vegas, supporters of a new stadium in Oakland recently submitted its proposal to the NFL. The league is supposed to address the Raiders\' relocation application later this month.

HOCKEY

National Hockey League: The NHL\'s New York Islanders are reported to be moving forward on a proposed new arena near the Belmont Park racetrack in Elmont (NY), which is in Nassau County near the border of Queens. The Islanders left Nassau County for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn after the 2014-15 season, but the team is not happy with its new home arena.

ECHL: The ownership of the Anchorage-based Alaska Aces officially announced the team will fold after the 2016-17 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. Although a potential ownership group in Portland (ME) is trying to obtain an ECHL franchise, the league plans to add only the expansion Worcester Railers HC and the Jacksonville IceMen for next season. Jacksonville will be the league\'s former Evansville IceMen franchise that sat out this season after an unsuccessful attempt to move the team to Owensboro (KY).

North American Hockey League: The Alaska-based Kenai River Brown Bears team in the Tier-II junior-level NAHL will cease operations after this season. The team joined the league for the 2007-08 season. There is a possibility of the team relocating or new ownership taking over the team.

Southern Professional Hockey League: The owner of the SPHL\'s Columbus (GA) Cottonmouths has been trying to sell the team and recently announced the team will cease operations after this season, if new ownership cannot be found. The Cottonmouths were an original member of the SPHL when it started play for the 2004-05 season.

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, currently lists six member teams called the Syracuse Crush, Baldwinsville (NY) Bandits, Watertown (NY) Whalers, Elmira (NY) Express, Palmyra (PA) Battalion and Newark (DE) Diamonds. The IDHL will serve as the official development league for the lower-level minor professional Federal Hockey League.

SOCCER

National Women\'s Soccer League: The professional NWSL recently announced the schedule for its fifth season that will start next month. The league will again have ten teams aligned in one table for the 2017 season. The only change was the Western New York Flash being sold and moving from Rochester to Cary (NC) to become the North Carolina Courage for the 2017 season. A former Cary-based women\'s team called the Carolina Courage played in all three seasons (2001-03) of the former professional league called the Women\'s United Soccer Association.

Major League Soccer: The MLS started its 22nd season this weekend and, with the addition of expansion teams called the Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC, the league has grown to 22 teams aligned in 11-team Eastern and Western conferences. The league had 20 teams last season and Atlanta was added to the Eastern Conference while Minnesota was added to the Western Conference.

OTHER

Major League Rugby: The new four-team competition for 2017 called the Major Rugby Championship has acquired the Major League Rugby name that will be used in the future. The original organizers of the proposed Major League Rugby were planning to use the name for a league that would compete with the PRO Rugby league, which played an inaugural 2016 season with five teams and is not returning 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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