Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
May 15, 2017 - American Hockey League (AHL)

BASEBALL

Southern League: The Jackson (TN) Generals of the Double-AA Southern League will be called the Hub City Hippos for every Friday home game in the 2017 season. The nickname was originally part of an April Fool's Day joke, but the team decided to actually use the name as a 2017 season promotion.

Frontier League: The independent Frontier League started its 2017 season this week with the same 12 returning teams that are aligned into six-team East and West divisions. The East includes the Joliet (IL) Slammers, Lake Erie Crushers (Avon, OH), Schaumburg (IL) Boomers, Traverse City (MI) Beach Bums, Washington (PA) Wild Things and Windy City ThunderBolts. The West has the Evansville (IN) Otters, Florence (KY) Freedom, Gateway Grizzlies (Sauget, IL), Normal (IL) CornBelters, River City Rascals (O'Fallon, MO) and Southern Illinois Miners (Marion). The Frontier League started play in 1993.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Gatorade League (G-League): The NBA's Los Angeles Clippers are planning to launch their own G-League team based in Ontario (CA) for the 2017-18 season. The new team will be called the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario. This would grow the league to 26 teams after it played with 22 teams in the 2016-17 season and leaves only four NBA teams (the Washington Wizards, Portland Trailblazers, Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans) without some sort of single affiliation with a G-League team. The league is changing its name from the NBA D-League for the 2017-18 season.

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced another expansion team called the Atlanta Rappers will start play in the 2017-18 season. The league had teams called the Atlanta Storm, Atlanta Wildcats and Atlanta Aliens participate in the 2016-17 season.

National Basketball League of Canada: An ownership group in Sudbury (Ontario) has purchased an NBL-Canada franchise. The team could start play as early as next season, but will definitely start within two years. The league operated with ten teams for its 2016-17 season with five teams in Atlantic Canada making up the Atlantic Division and five teams in southern Ontario comprising the Central Division. Sudbury would be the league's first team in northern Ontario. The new ownership group also owns the Sudbury Spartans semi-pro football team and the Sudbury Wolves of the major-junior Ontario Hockey League.

Women's National Basketball Association: The WNBA started its 2017 season this weekend with the same 12 teams as last season. The Eastern Conference has the Atlanta Dream, Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Washington (DC) Mystics, while the Western Conference includes the Dallas Wings, Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx, Phoenix Mercury, San Antonio Stars and Seattle Storm. The WNBA season ends during the first week of September.

FOOTBALL

Women's Football Alliance: The full-contact 11-on-11 WFA started its 2017 season last month with 65 teams in three separate tiers that are based on roster size and years of experience. The league has been around since the 2009 season and is considered the top-level of the current women's outdoor football leagues.

Independent Women's Football League: The full-contact 11-on-11 IWFL started its 2017 season last month with 10 teams in 4 regional divisions, plus a six-team division of affiliated teams. The league had a total of 26 participating teams last season, but it decided to eliminate its Atlantic Conference due to high travel costs and it also lost several teams to the Women's Football Alliance for the 2017 season.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: The AHL announced its divisional alignment for the 2017-18 season that will again feature 30 teams. The Eastern Conference has an eight-team Atlantic Division after the move of the Charlotte Checkers from the Western Conference Central Division, along with a seven-team North Division that saw three of its teams move to new locations. The Binghamton Senators moved to become the Belleville (Ontario) Senators, the Albany Devils moved to become the Binghamton Devils and the St. John's IceCaps moved from Newfoundland to Quebec to become the Laval Rocket. The Western Conference has a seven-team Central Division with the loss of Charlotte, while the eight-team Pacific Division remained the same. Although the National Hockey League is adding a 31st team called the Las Vegas Golden Knights for the 2017-18 season, the AHL is not adding a 31st NHL affiliate in 2017-18. The owner of the Colorado Eagles (Loveland) in the ECHL would like to see the team eventually move up a level and become the AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. The team is currently the ECHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. There have been discussions about upgrading the Eagles' home arena that could make it more suitable for an AHL team in the future.

National Hockey League: The city of Virginia Beach (VA) recently announced a deal with a developer to build a new 18,000-seat arena that could host college basketball tournaments, an arena football team and an NHL team. Although the development group has met with NHL officials, an NHL franchise at this location is considered a longshot. In the NHL's 1998-99 round of expansion, the region attempted an NHL expansion team called the Hampton Roads Rhinos, but a proposed arena was never built.

SOCCER

North American Soccer League: The provisional Division-II NASL announced an expansion team based in Orange County (CA) had been added and is expected to start play in 2018. The team's home will be Titan Stadium on the campus of Cal State-Fullerton. This will be the NASL's second West Coast team as it added the San Francisco Deltas this season. The provisional Division-II United Soccer League (USL) has the Orange County SC based about 20 miles away in Irvine (CA). After the USL recently announced plans to start a Division-III league in 2019, there is now talk of a competing Division-III league affiliated with the NASL and involving several teams from the National Premier Soccer League that would move up to Division-III status.

United Soccer League: The head of the USL recently discussed league expansion over the next couple of years. Nashville SC was previously announced for a 2018 start, but teams in Fresno, Las Vegas and Birmingham (AL) could also join next season. The league has some other applications for 2019 and 2020 that include Major League Soccer's D.C. United starting its own USL affiliate and a group trying to place a USL team in Baltimore.

Major League Soccer: The Miami MLS expansion group is close to the purchase of a final land parcel needed to start construction of a soccer-specific stadium. If stadium construction does move forward, a Miami-based MLS team could start play in 2019 at a temporary facility. The ownership of the Phoenix Rising FC in the United Soccer League met with MLS officials this week about its expansion bid and its plans to build a climate-controlled MLS-style stadium in Scottsdale. The head of the bid to bring an MLS expansion team to Nashville recently purchased a controlling interest in the Nashville SC, which will be a 2018 expansion team in the United Soccer League. The city has also formed the MLS2Nashville committee to promote its MLS expansion effort.

United Soccer Leagues "" Premier Development League: The amateur-level PDL recently started its 2017 season that features 72 teams in Eastern, Western, Southern and Central conferences further aligned into 10 regional divisions. Some of the new teams for 2017 include the Texas United (Grand Prairie), FC Cleburne (TX), North Carolina FC U23 (Cary/Raleigh), Brazos Valley Cavalry FC (Bryan-College Station, TX), the Denver-based Colorado Rapids U-23, Lakeland (FL) Tropics, Tobacco Road FC (Durham, NC), Myrtle Beach (SC) Mutiny, Weston FC (Pembroke Pines, FL), TSS FC Rovers (Total Soccer Systems) of Vancouver (British Columbia), Wilmington (NC) Hammerheads FC, SIMA Aguilas (Soccer Institute at Montverde, FL Academy), FC Boulder U23 and Southern California Surf, or SoCal Surf (Carlsbad, CA).

Canadian Premier League: The proposed new professional CPL is currently planning a start in 2018 as a FIFA-sanctioned Tier-I league. Two of its first teams will be based in Hamilton (Ontario) and Winnipeg (Manitoba) and under the ownership of the Canadian Football League teams (Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers) located in those markets. Several other Canadian cities have expressed interest in the league and they will be evaluated over the next 60 to 90 days.

OTHER

National Pro Fastpitch: The women's NPF announced the addition of the Shougang Eagles team, which is managed by the Chinese Softball Association, to the 2017 regular season schedule. The team will be based in the United States during the 2017 season and will be a travel team playing its home games at the venues of the five other NPF teams based in the United States. The other 2017 NPF teams include the Akron Racers, Chicago Bandits, Scrap Yard Dawgs (Houston), Texas Charge (San Marcos) and the USSSA Florida Pride (Viera). The NPF's 2017 season starts on June 1 and runs through August.

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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