Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
June 27, 2016 - ECHL (ECHL)

BASEBALL

New York-Penn League: The Staten Island (NY) Yankees of the short-season Class-A NYPL announced a name-the-team contest with plans to rename and rebrand the team for the 2017 season. The Staten Island team will remain an affiliate of the Yankees, but will take a name with a local identity. The top six choices for a name will be selected for final voting.

Pacific Coast League: The New Orleans Zephyrs of the Triple-A PCL announced seven finalists for its name-team-contest. The team plans to change its name for the 2017 season. The Zephyrs team and name came to New Orleans with the relocation of the Denver Zephyrs for the 1993 season. The seven finalists are the New Orleans Baby Cakes, New Orleans Crawfish, New Orleans King Cakes, New Orleans Night Owls, New Orleans Po\'boys, New Orleans Red Eyes and New Orleans Tailgators.

Atlantic League: The independent Atlantic League is looking to add three more teams in Texas by the 2018 season to create a four-team Southwest Division that would include its only current Texas-based team called the Sugar Land Skeeters. Seven of the league\'s eight teams are located in the East (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Maryland) and a proposed Southwest Division was discussed after the Sugar Land Skeeters were added for the 2012 season. The league is reported to be in discussions with five potential ownership groups.

Texas League: Plans for a proposed new baseball stadium in Amarillo were temporarily put on hold until the ownership of the San Antonio Missions in the Double-A Texas League commits to moving to Amarillo. The Elmore Sports Group, which owns the Missions, is interested in moving its Triple-A Colorado Sky Sox team to a proposed new stadium in San Antonio with the Double-A San Antonio Missions moving to a proposed new stadium in Amarillo. San Antonio still needs to determine where to build the stadium and how to finance construction, so the ownership group is not yet ready to sign a letter of intent to move the Texas League team to Amarillo.

Frontier League: Officials in Jackson County (MI) have extended an agreement with a potential owner of a Frontier League franchise so the owner can find partners for a new ballpark that would be built on the county fairgrounds. The latest agreement runs through August 31, 2016.

Major League Baseball: After Las Vegas was announced as a choice for a National Hockey League expansion team, the MLB commissioner stated that Las Vegas could be one of the cities under consideration for future MLB expansion.

Appalachian League (APPY): The short-season advanced-rookie level APPY started its 2016 season this week with the same ten teams and Major League affiliations as last season. The league has teams in North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee. Teams are aligned into five-team Eastern and Western divisions. The APPY season runs through September 1.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Development League (D-League): Since the NBA\'s Milwaukee Bucks issued a request for proposals to establish a Wisconsin-based D-League team that would be located within two hours of Milwaukee, several Wisconsin cities like La Crosse, Racine, Sheboygan, Oshkosh and Grand Chute, near Appleton, have expressed interest in becoming home to the Bucks\' future D-League affiliate. The goal is for each of the 30 NBA teams to have an affiliate in the D-League, which is now at 22 teams.

FOOTBALL

Canadian Football League: The CFL started its 2016 season this week with the same nine teams and alignment as last season. The East Division features the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montreal Alouettes, Otttawa RedBlacks and Toronto Argonauts, while the West Division has the British Columbia Lions (Vancouver), Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Eskimos, Saskatchewan Roughriders (Regina) and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The regular season runs through November 5 with each team playing an 18-game schedule.

American Spring Football League: The proposed professional ASFL is still trying to acquire investors to help get off the ground and the league has provided no time table for when it will start play. In December 2015, the league stated it had investors for proposed teams in Ohio and Virginia and last month stated it was working with groups in Texas and Nebraska.

HOCKEY

National Hockey League: The NHL granted an expansion team for the city of Las Vegas and it will start play in the 2017-18 season. The league decided not to act at this time on an expansion application filed by a group in Quebec City due to concerns about the strength of the Canadian dollar and a geographical imbalance with the current 16-team Eastern Conference and 14-team Western Conference.

American Hockey League: With the National Hockey League expanding to 31 teams after the addition of a Las Vegas team, the minor league AHL is expected to also expand to 31 teams. A new AHL affiliate of a Las Vegas NHL team would most likely be based in the western half of the United States. Some of the cities that could be considered include Reno (NV), Fresno (CA) and Salt Lake City (UT).

ECHL: The ECHL confirmed the league will have 27 teams for the 2016-17 season. The ECHL had 28 teams for the 2015-16 season, but the Evansville IceMen will sit out the 2016-17 season as the team prepares for a move to Owensboro (KY) for the 2017-18 season. The league has already announced a new team called the Worcester Railers HC will be added for the 2017-18 season and a group in Portland (ME) is looking to relocate an existing ECHL team to that city for the 2017-18 season.

Provincial Junior Hockey League: The Ontario Hockey Association has created the new Junior-C level PJHL that will combine the OHA\'s eight Junior-C leagues into one league with four conferences and two divisions per conference. Teams from each of the eight leagues will be placed into its own division in the new league with most of the divisions taking the name of the former league. Leagues involved in the merger include the Midwestern Junior C Hockey League (now the Pat Doherty Division), Great Lakes Junior C Hockey League (now the Bill Stobbs Division), Niagara & District Junior C Hockey League (now the Niagara & District Division), Southern Ontario Junior C Hockey League (now the Southern Division), Central Ontario Junior C Hockey League (now the Central Division), the Georgian Bay Mid-Ontario Junior C Hockey League (now the Georgian Bay/Mid-Ontario Division), the Empire B Junior C Hockey League (now the Empire B Division) and the Western Ontario Junior C Hockey League (now the Pollock Division).

National Women\'s Hockey League: The professional NWHL completed its player draft this week for the 2016-17 season that will feature the same four teams as last season - the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale (Northford) and New York Riveters.

Canadian Women\'s Hockey League: The elite-level non-professional CWHL announced it will hold its player draft for the 2016-17 season in August 2016. The league will feature the same five teams as last season - the Boston Blades, Brampton Thunder, Calgary Inferno, Les Canadiennes de Montréal and Toronto Furies.

Junior Women\'s Hockey League: The developmental JWHL announced last month the addition of four new teams for the 2016-17 season - Ridley College (St. Catherines, Ontario), Chicago Young Americans, The New England Hockey Club (Marlborough, MA) and The Kimberley Academy (Kimberley, British Columbia). The JWHL will be entering its tenth season of play with teams in Canada and United States.

SOCCER

United Soccer League: The FC Tucson of the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL) is looking for investors to help move the team up a level from the amateur PDL to the professional Division-III USL. The FC Tucson joined the PDL as a 2012 expansion team. The group bringing a new USL team to Nashville for the 2018 season plans to announce the team\'s name next week.

Major League Soccer: The 2017 MLS expansion team called the Atlanta United FC might have to start its inaugural season on the road or play some early season home games at a temporary venue. The team will be sharing the new stadium being built for the National Football League\'s Atlanta Falcons, but the new stadium is not expected to be completed until June 2017, which is a couple of months into the MLS season.

Indoor Professional League: The owner of the new Lakeland-based Florida Tropics indoor soccer team officially introduced the new franchise that will play in the inaugural 2016-17 season of the new IPL. As of now, the Florida Tropics and three former Major Arena Soccer League teams (Baltimore Blast, St. Louis Ambush and Harrisburg Heat) are the only members of the IPL.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames 2014-15: "The Leagueology Almanac" , which tracks the changes in league alignments, franchise movements and team nicknames in today\'s sports world. The publication is currently available at www.amazon.com.

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