Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
July 18, 2016 - American Hockey League (AHL)

BASEBALL

Carolina League: The Lynchburg (VA) Hillcats of the high Class-A Carolina League announced the six nicknames as finalists for the name-the-team contest. These include Doves, Lambchops, Derechos, River Runners, Love Apples and Hillcats. The new team name will be selected after fan voting ends next week and the team will be renamed for the 2017 season. Lynchburg has been part of the league since the 1966 season, but always took the name of its parent Major League Baseball club until switching to the Hillcats for the 1995 season.

Northwoods League: The new Bismarck (ND) expansion team in the summer-collegiate Northwoods League has narrowed potential nickname choices to five - the Bismarck Baldies, Bismarck Bigfoot, Bismarck Bullies, Bismarck Flickertails and Bismarck Meadowlarks/Larks. The Bismarck team will start play in the 2017 season and the league is looking at possible other expansion teams for Minot (ND), Fond du Lac (WI) and Alexandria (MN).

Atlantic League: The city of Stamford (CT) has expressed interest in becoming home to a baseball team, possibly in the independent Atlantic League. The league's Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish team is only about 35 miles from Stamford and the league has another Connecticut-based team called the New Britain Bees. Stamford does not currently have a suitable ballpark, so it could be a while before getting a team.

New York-Penn League: The State College (PA) Spikes of the short-season Class-A NYPL were renamed the State Puft Marshmallow Men for a game this weekend as part of a Ghostbusters Night promotion. The name is a variation of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the Ghostbusters movie.

BASKETBALL

Elite International Basketball Association: The proposed new EIBA, which planned to have several U.S.-based teams and various international teams competing in a 2016 summertime league, announced the seven teams that will be part of a round-robin tournament called the Queen City Call Out next weekend. The teams will include the Memphis Lions, New England Conquerors (Boston), Atlanta Jaguars, Carolina Prestige (Raleigh), Team Nextup, Southeast Royals (Jacksonville), and the host Carolina Force (Hickory).

FOOTBALL

American Indoor Football: The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (Allentown, PA) announced the team will not return to the AIF for the 2017 season and will move to a different league. The Steelhawks played two seasons (2011-12) in the Indoor Football League and three seasons (2013-15) in the Professional Indoor Football League before moving to the AIF when the PIFL folded after the 2015 season. The AIF's expansion team called the High County Grizzlies officially announced it will be part of the league in 2017 and will play home games played at the 6,100-seat Holmes Convocation Center on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone (NC).

Arena Football League: The AFL expansion team to be based in Washington (DC) for the 2017 season will be called the Washington Valor. A previous team called the Washington Commandos (Fairfax, VA) played in the inaugural 1987 season of the original AFL, sat out the 1988 season, returned as the Maryland Commandos (Landover) in 1989 and played again as the Washington Commandos (Fairfax, VA) in its final season of 1990. The owner of the National Football League's Washington Redskins bought the rights to an AFL team in 1999, but a proposed team called the Washington Warriors never materialized.

States Developmental Football League: The proposed semi-pro SDFL, which has been trying to get off the ground with various state-based teams since playing one game in 2012, now plans to start play in 2017 with four teams - two Arkansas teams in Fort Smith and Little Rock and two Texas teams in Houston and Austin.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: The National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens announced they will move its AHL affiliate called the St. John's IceCaps from Newfoundland to a new arena in Laval (Quebec) for the 2017-18 season. Prior to the 2015-16 season, the Canadiens moved its Hamilton Bulldogs AHL affiliate from Ontario to St. John's on a temporary basis while a new arena was built closer to Montreal. Another St. John's IceCaps team, which was affiliated with the NHL's Winnipeg Jets, was moved by the Jets to Winnipeg for the 2015-16 season and left the St. John's market available for the Montreal affiliate.

The NHL's Ottawa Senators are considering a move of its Binghamton (NY) Senators AHL affiliate closer to home in Belleville (Ontario). If this move happens, there is speculation the AHL's Albany (NY) Devils would then move to Binghamton. The new ownership of the NHL's New York Islanders stated that its Bridgeport (CT) Sound Tigers AHL affiliate will not be moving to the Islanders' former home at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island when renovations are completed next year. The Sound Tigers have a lease through 2021 in Bridgeport.

ECHL: The ECHL announced the divisional alignment for the 27 teams that will be part of the 2016-17 season. Each conference was reduced from three to two divisions with teams realigned among the divisions. The Eastern Conference loses the Midwest Division and is aligned into a six-team North Division and a seven-team South Division. The Western Conference loses the Midwest Division and is aligned into a seven-team Central Division and a seven-team Mountain Division, renamed from the West Division. The ECHL had 28 teams for the 2015-16 season, but the Evansville IceMen will sit out the 2016-17 season as the team plans to move to Owensboro (KY) for the 2017-18 season

Federal Hockey League: The owner of the FHL's Dayton Demolition announced the team will not play in the 2016-17 season due to the unavailability of its home at Hara Arena. The Dayton Demolition started play in the FHL when the owner of the league's Berkshire Battalion (North Adams, MA) relocated the team to Dayton for the 2015-16 season. The Demolition replaced the league's Dayton Demonz franchise, whose owner stopped operating the team after three seasons (2012-15), became involved with the Port Huron Prowlers expansion team and acquired the protected player list of the Demonz for the 2015-16 season. The FHL was forced to terminate the ownership of the Demolition in January 2016 and the current ownership eventually took over the franchise. There had been talk of possibly renaming the Dayton team. The FHL also announced the Brewster (NY) Bulldogs will suspend operations for the 2016-17 season. The Bulldogs were an expansion team for the 2015-16 season and co-owned by the owner of the league's Danbury (CT) Titans team. The FHL recently held a dispersal draft for the Brewster Bulldogs and Dayton Demolition.

SOCCER

LIGA MX: Mexico's top soccer league known as Liga MX started the 2016 Apertura portion of its two-part (Apertura/Clausura) 2016-17 season this weekend and again has 18 teams. After only one season in the Liga MX, the Dorados de Sinaloa (Culiacan) club was relegated to the Ascenso MX league, while the Club Necaxa Rayos was promoted from the Ascenso MX to the Liga MX. The 17-week Apertura schedule runs from mid-July into November 2016, while the Clausura portion will run from January to May 2017. After completion of the Apertura/Clausura season, a Liga MX team is usually demoted to the Ascenso MX and an Ascenso MX team is promoted to the Liga MX.

Ascenso MX: The Ascenso MX soccer league, which is the second-level relegation league to Mexico's first division Liga MX, grew from 16 to 18 teams for its 2016-17 two-part (Apertura/Clausura) season that started play this weekend. Of the 16 teams from last season, the Club Necaxa Rayos (Aquascaliente) was promoted to the Liga MX, while the Atletico San Luis (San Luis Potosi) folded. The Ascenso MX added four teams for 2016-17. The Dorados de Sinaloa club was relegated to the Ascenso MX from the Liga MX.

The Tampico Madero was promoted to the Ascenso MX from the lower-level Segunda Division and the UAEM Potros (Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Mexico) club was added as an expansion team from the Segunda Division. The Loros de la Universidad de Colima club was promoted from the Segunda Division to the Ascenso MX last season, but its stadium was not ready so the Cimarrones de Sonora took their place. The Loros de la Universidad de Colima club was able to start play in the 2016-17 season and the Cimarrones de Sonora remained in the Ascenso MX for 2016-17.

Premier Arena Soccer League: It looks as though the amateur-level PASL, which is currently the developmental indoor league for the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL), is not holding summer season in 2016. The PASL has held a summer indoor season since starting play in 1998 and added a women's division for the 2008 through 2014 summer seasons. The PASL played a summer-only season until adding a winter season starting in 2003-04 when it became the official developmental league for the former Major Indoor Soccer League. The PASL had only six men's teams playing a short summer season in 2015, but continues to play a men's winter season, which had 22 teams in four regional divisions for the most recent 2015-16 season.

OTHER

United Women's Lacrosse League: The new United Women's Lacrosse League, known as the UWXL, has finished its inaugural 2016 regular season with four teams called the Baltimore Pride, Boston Storm, Long Island Sound and Philadelphia Force. The UWXL is the first professional post-collegiate lacrosse league for women. Each team played an eight-game schedule from May 28 to July 16 and the league will host a Championship Weekend at the end of the month.

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.

• Discuss this story on the American Hockey League message board