Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
October 9, 2017 - American Hockey League (AHL)

BASEBALL

Texas League: The city of Amarillo awarded a construction contract for a new downtown stadium that will become home to the relocated San Antonio Missions of the Double-A Texas League starting with the 2019 season.

Appalachian League: Three Major League Baseball teams - the Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians - expressed interest in placing a team in the Greeneville (TN) market as part of the advanced Rookie-level Appalachian League. MLB\'s Houston Astros just pulled its team from the league after the 2017 season. Although there has been no official announcement, the Cincinnati Reds claim to have obtained rights to the market.

International League: The Pawtucket (RI) Red Sox of the Triple-A International League continue to talk with the city of Worcester (MA) about possible sites that could serve as home to a new stadium for the team. The Worcester city council signed off on a resolution by the mayor to try to obtain the team, which is entertaining offers from other markets after its period of exclusivity with Pawtucket expired.

Prospect League: A new team in Hannibal (MO) will be part of the 2018 season in the summer-collegiate Prospect League. A former team called the Hannibal Cavemen suspended operations before the league\'s 2017 season.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Gatorade League (G-League): A group of investors announced plans for a new development in Pensacola to include a 6,500-seat arena that could become home to the G-League team for the NBA\'s New Orleans Pelicans. If financing for the project goes through, the arena could be ready for the 2019-20 season. Pensacola and Shreveport (LA) appear to be the last of several cities the Pelicans originally had under consideration for its G-League team.

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced a new team called the Lancaster (PA) Wolfpack has been added for a start in the 2018-19 season. A proposed ABA team called the Lancaster Knights was one of 19 Pennsylvania-based teams to be added to the ABA for the 2013-14 season as part of a "The Pennsylvania Project" expansion plan that was never completed.

North American Premier Basketball: The proposed new league known as the NAPB, which plans to start play in January 2018 with teams in Western Canada and across the United States, has been adding new teams and markets since it was officially announced in July 2017. The Rochester (NY) RazorSharks, formerly of the Premier Basketball League, was the first NAPB team announced as its owner is involved in organizing the new league. Other announced new teams and markets include the Albany (NY) Patroons, Yakima (WA) Sun Kings, Ohio Cardinals (Akron), Seattle, Kansas City and Owensboro (KY). The NAPB has been holding player combines across the United States and in some Canadian cities. The league wants to have 8 to 12 teams for its first season with each team playing a 32-game schedule.

Global Women\'s Basketball Association: In August 2017, the semi-pro GWBA completed its second annual short summer season with three league teams called the Flint Monarchs, Milwaukee Aces and Chicago Breeze. A team called the Detroit Dodgers from the Women\'s Blue Chip Basketball League played a game against Milwaukee during the season. A new Indianapolis-based team called the Indy Bandits is trying to organize as a future GWBA member.

FOOTBALL

Indoor Football League: After announcing its departure from the IFL to join the league known as Champions Indoor Football (CIF) for the 2018 season, the Sioux Falls (SD) Storm is now returning to the IFL for 2018. The IFL and CIF traded lawsuit threats over the IFL\'s Sioux Falls Storm and Wichita Falls Nighthawks leaving for the CIF and the CIF\'s Bloomington Edge and West Michigan Ironmen (Muskegon) leaving for the IFL. The CIF had placed certain restrictions on the Sioux Falls and Wichita Falls for playing in its 2018 season, so Sioux Falls returned to the IFL. As of now Wichita Falls is not part of either league, while Bloomington and West Michigan remain in the IFL.

National Arena League: The NAL is reported to be close to announcing new teams in Greensboro (NC) and Orlando for the 2018 season.

Southern Indoor Developmental League: The Atlanta-based lower-level SIDL plans to start play in March 2018 with teams based in the South and at least one team in Atlanta. The league will focus on the development of players, coaches, and referees for a higher level of indoor football.

HOCKEY

ECHL: The ECHL\'s new Portland (ME) expansion team will be called the Maine Mariners when it starts play in the 2018-19 season. The Watchmen, Lumberjacks, Puffins and Wild Blueberries were other names under consideration for the team. Portland had a former minor pro team called the Maine Mariners in the higher-level American Hockey League (AHL), but that team moved to become the Providence Bruins for the 1992-93 season. Portland then became home to the AHL\'s Portland Pirates team that moved to become the Springfield (MA) Thunderbirds for the 2016-17 season.

American Hockey League: The AHL started its 2017-18 season this weekend and again has 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 (NY) 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 move of Charlotte, while the eight-team Pacific Division remained the same. The AHL plans to add a 31st team in 2018-19 to match the National Hockey League\'s 31 teams.

Western States Hockey League: The junior-level WSHL, which plays at the Tier-II level under the Amateur Athletic Union\'s United Hockey Union, started its 2017-18 season late last month with 26 teams and several changes from last season. The Las Vegas Storm did not return, the Tulsa Junior Oilers went dormant for the 2017-18 season, and the owner of the Butte Cobras gave up control of the team to a local hockey organization, which then moved the Butte Cobras to the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) with the relocation of the NA3HL\'s Glacier Nationals from Havre (MT) to Butte. The Idaho Junior Steelheads were renamed the Idaho IceCats for the 2017-18 season. The WSHL\'s Vancouver (WA) Rangers moved to Bremerton (WA) to become the West Sound Warriors, which was the name of a 2016-17 United States Premier 3 League (USP3) team that folded after the 2016-17 season. Another 2016-17 USP3 team called the Seattle Ravens joined the WSHL as the Kent Ravens, but recently ceased operations just before the start of the 2017-18 season.

United Hockey League: The new independent minor professional UHL plans to start play with six teams for the 2018-19 hockey season. A previous version of the UHL started as the Colonial Hockey League in the 1991-92 season, changed to the UHL name starting with the 1997-98 season, and then became the International Hockey League for the 2007-08 season prior to folding after the 2009-10 season.

Southern Professional Hockey League: In addition to the new Birmingham Bulls team replacing the Columbus (GA) Cottonmouths for the 2017-18 SPHL season, the league\'s Fayetteville (NC) FireAntz were re-branded as the Fayetteville Marksmen after a change in ownership.

SOCCER

United Soccer League: Plans have been dropped by investors trying to start a 2019 USL expansion team called the San Francisco FC. In 2014, the group started the lower-level Premier Development League team called the Burlingame (CA) Dragons FC, which was affiliated with Major League Soccer\'s San Jose Earthquakes, to possibly become a feeder for the proposed USL team. The cost was too high for a proposed new 5,200-seat stadium in Burlingame and an attempt to have the USL team play at the home of the San Francisco Giants could not be worked out. With the end of the proposed USL team, the PDL\'s Burlingame Dragons FC has also been shut down.

Major League Soccer: The MLS is still on schedule to announce its next two expansion cities sometime in December 2017 that would grow the league to 26 teams. The Los Angeles FC will be added as the league\'s 23rd team in 2018, but the 24th team that was announced for Miami is still working on a stadium plan. Of some of the next potential expansion efforts, Nashville recently announced its financing plan for a soccer-specific stadium, the Detroit expansion group reached a tentative agreement on a land swap for a stadium site, and Cincinnati is considering three possible stadium sites and is working on a partnership plan to build a stadium.

Major Arena Soccer League 2: A new team called the Upstate Strikers FC, based in Anderson (SC), is expected to be part of the new MASL2, or M2. The M2 will start play in December 2017 and will serve as an affiliated lower-level professional indoor soccer league to the Major Arena Soccer League.

OTHER

American Rugby Premiership: The elite-level men\'s ARP started its 2017-18 season last month with five teams. The ARP had five teams last season, but the Boston Irish Wolfhounds and Boston Rugby were replaced by the Glendale (CO) Merlins and the Life Running Eagles (Atlanta). The three returning teams are the Mystic River Rugby (Malden, MA), New York Athletic Club and Old Blue of New York. Teams play eight matches through November.

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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