by Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report
May 22, 2017 - American Hockey League (AHL)
American Association: The independent American Association started its 2017 season this weekend and again has 12 teams aligned in four-team North, South and Central divisions. The North Division remained the same with the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, St. Paul Saints, Sioux Falls Canaries and Winnipeg Goldeyes, as did the Central Division with the Gary SouthShore RailCats, Kansas City T-Bones, Lincoln Saltdogs and Sioux City Explorers. In the South Division, the Joplin Blasters and Laredo Lemurs did not return and were replaced by the expansion Cleburne (TX) Railroaders and the Salina (KS) Stockade, which will play most games on the road. The other South Division teams are the Wichita Wingnuts and the Texas Airhogs, who will call Grand Prairie as its home after playing home games in both Amarillo and Grand Prairie in 2016. The league recently announced an expansion team based in Rosemont (IL) near Chicago will join for the 2018 season. A developer in the Franklin (WI) area of Milwaukee is moving forward on plans for a new ballpark that could become home to a future American Association expansion team.
Atlantic League: The city of High Point (NC), which is about midway between Greensboro and Winston-Salem, is reported to have a commitment from the independent Atlantic League for a High Point franchise, if a proposed stadium is built and an ownership group is found. The city has approved funds to purchase land for a proposed new downtown stadium and a group has been formed to raise private financing.
Can-Am League: The independent Can-Am League started its 2017 season this weekend with the same six teams as last season called the New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls), Ottawa Champions, Quebec Les Capitales (Quebec City), Rockland Boulders (Ramapo, NY), Sussex County (NJ) Miners and the Trois-Rivieres Aigles (Quebec). Each of the six teams will play a series in June 2017 against the Cuban National Team and a team from the Dominican Republic with these games counting in the league standings.
Frontier League: Local officials in Parkersburg (WV) have stated that a proposed new ballpark for a possible team in the independent Frontier League is unlikely in the near future. Discussions started about two years ago, but financing for the ballpark construction was an issue. Parkersburg was home to a Frontier League team called the Ohio Valley Redcoats for six seasons (1993-98).
Northwoods League: The city of Mitchell (SD) signed an agreement with the summer-collegiate Northwoods League that will allow the league to use the local Drake Field for five years. A team based in Mitchell could start in 2018, but the league has until September 2019 to decide on expanding to the city.
National Basketball Association Gatorade League (G-League): The city of Shreveport is considering construction of a new arena that would become home to the NBA G-League team owned by the NBA\'s New Orleans Pelicans. Shreveport is one of six cities under consideration by the Pelicans for its G-League affiliate. The NBA\'s Los Angeles Clippers officially announced their new NBA G-League team will be the Aqua Caliente Clippers of Ontario (CA) and it will start play in the 2017-18 season. The team is named for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians that operate the Agua Caliente Casino Resorts, which will be the G-League team\'s sponsor. The G-League, previously called the NBA Developmental League, or D-League, will grow to 26 teams in 2017-18 will all teams owned or operated by an NBA team.
American Basketball Association: The ABA announced the creation of another international league called the ABA Australia that hopes to start with four to eight teams. Earlier this year, the ABA announced the creation of a new ABA Mexico league.
Women\'s Blue Chip Basketball League: The WBCBL, which claims to be the premier professional development basketball league for women, recently started its 2017 season. The league currently lists 48 teams in 10 regional divisions. The WBCBL has been around since the 2005 season.
Arena Pro Football: The indoor football league known as the APF, which is currently playing its inaugural 2017 season with six participating teams, now lists the Hampton Roads Riptide as a 2018 expansion team.
National Arena League: The NAL has apparently taken over its Georgia Firebirds (Albany) team after ownership was unable to continue funding the team. The league had to cancel a game this weekend against the league-operated Corpus Christi Rage because the Firebirds could not afford the travel costs.
American Flag Football League: The proposed new professional AFFL plans to hold a pilot game late next month in San Jose to showcase its new 7-on-7 style of flag football. The AFFL is looking to form eight league-owned franchises with league play starting in 2018. A former flag football league called the Professional Flag Football League (PFFL) was attempted in 1999 with six teams in an Ohio Valley Division playing a nine-man game. Teams included the Buffalo Vikings, Cleveland Gibbs, Columbus Warriors, Dayton Jets, Fort Wayne Legends and Toledo Troopers. Several teams failed to complete their inaugural season schedules and the league did not return in 2000.
American Hockey League: The National Hockey League\'s 2017-18 expansion team called the Las Vegas Golden Knights has signed an affiliation agreement with the AHL\'s Chicago Wolves starting with the 2017-18 season. The Chicago Wolves had been the AHL affiliate of the NHL\'s St. Louis Blues for the past few seasons. Since the NHL will have 31 teams next season and the AHL will only have 30, the St. Louis Blues will be the only NHL team without its own AHL affiliate. The AHL is expected to expand to 31 teams for the 2018-19 season. Until then, the Blues will place some of its prospects with the Chicago Wolves and other AHL teams as it tries to set up its own AHL affiliate for the 2018-19 season.
North American Hockey League: The Wichita Falls (TX) Wildcats of the Tier-II junior-level NAHL finished its 2016-17 season last month and the team is not expected to return for the 2017-18 season. The owner has shut down the team due to attendance and arena lease issues. It is doubtful a new owner would keep the team in Wichita Falls, but the team is considered a candidate for possible purchase and relocation.
ECHL: The ECHL announced its 2017-18 season schedule that will feature 27 teams. The league alignment and conferences will be announced at a later date. The ECHL had 27 teams for its 2016-17 season, but the Elmira (NY) Jackals and Alaska Aces (Anchorage) ceased operations after the season. The league is adding the expansion Worcester (MA) Railers HC and the Jacksonville IceMen, which was the league\'s former Evansville IceMen franchise that failed in an attempt to move to Owensboro (KY). The former Elmira Jackals\' home arena has a prospective buyer, but the sale is contingent on the buyer placing a hockey team in the arena, so other hockey leagues are being considered for Elmira.
Liga MX: The 18-team Liga MX, which is Mexico\'s top soccer league, completed its two-part (Apertura/Clausura) 2016-17 season earlier this month and the Chiapas FC Jaguares will be relegated to Mexico\'s second-level relegation league known as the Ascenso MX. The 18-team Ascenso MX recently completed its 2016-17 season and the league\'s Lobos BUAP (Benemérita Universidad Aut?"noma de Puebla) will be promoted to the Liga MX for the 2017-18 season.
Major League Soccer: The group that filed the MLS expansion bid for Sacramento in January 2017 has acquired the Sacramento Republic FC, which is currently playing in the United Soccer League. The Sacramento Republic FC brand will now be part of the MLS bid as the team looks to move up to the MLS. The city of Sacramento has already approved plans for a proposed MLS-style stadium and Sacramento is considered one of the frontrunners for the next two MLS expansion cities expected to be announced later this year. The MLS expansion group in Miami known as the Beckham Miami United has been expected to become the league\'s 24th team. The group recently presented more information on a proposed 25,000-seat soccer stadium that has raised some backlash from local neighborhood organizations. The MLS expansion group in San Diego will move forward on a 22,000-seat soccer-only facility after San Diego State University ended talks on a deal to share a proposed 30,000-seat soccer/football stadium. The San Diego MLS stadium is to be part of a SoccerCity development on the site of the city\'s Qualcomm Stadium, which was home to the National Football League\'s San Diego Chargers.
USA Rugby League: The men\'s semi-pro USARL recently announced its 2017 schedule and alignment that will feature a four-team South Conference and an eight-team North Conference. All of the South Conference teams are returning from last season, but the North Conference is returning only eight teams. The D.C. Slayers decided to sit out this season and regroup for a return in 2018, while the Bucks County (PA) Sharks have ceased operations for now. The 2017 USARL season runs from early June to late July.
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.