What's noticeable to me as a Westie... the ECHL just seems to barely scrape by trading one western market for another. I've got a slight reason to believe that one more market (probably Reno) will pull it off to cover a team that slips up. Stockton (the team may not be as bad off as the arena)? Bakersfield (too much arena)? I think we've been through this San Francisco issue before and can guess the results. Overall, it's a house of cards, if ran by someone with somewhat deft hands.
There won't be any WCHL return or somesuch... not unless someone pulls off a major junior league. I think even Californians in the biz are aware of the WHL by now. Which reminds me...
...still think there's a 25% chance the about-to-be-approved Seattle building gets NHL. I said 25%, I'm not sure you want to be in a league where teams lose less by locking the gates. OTOH, if they pull that off, I really do wonder about the Seattle Thunderbirds, followed by a minor chain reaction, finished off with a reordering of the US Division (if there still is one, though I'm making a strong guess the WHL will fight to keep Spokane, Everett, and find a way to stay in Portland). That could open things up for the ECHL... but I doubt it.
Or does the AHL decide to bolster Abbotsford with local rivals instead of leaving Abbotsford? The AHL DID poke around Victoria before the WHL won. The WHL will fight that, and have proven rather adept at doing so. Things could get weird... but I think the WHL will outlast the AHL, then pull the necessary shenanigans to bring either the Kootenay Ice or Prince George Cougars to Abbotsford. Probably not much else happens if that does.
I think the AHL will start poking around some ECHL markets, and that will be a problem for the E. Of course, the A will probably inherit certain problems if they make that move.[/quote] IMO, I think the WCHL made a mistake by joining with the ECHL years ago. Maybe they did it to survive--I thought the WCHL was doing fairly well, but I admit, I don't know the details. An expanded WHL interests me, but then, just about ANY hockey in San Diego interests me at this point. As far as this thread title--with Gary Bettman as commissioner, the NHL may not exist in 5 to 10 years.
I just figured the west would kind of take over in the E. That just didn't happen.
There's a good number of markets that, if they were located in the Midwest, prospective owners would have strongarmed cities into building arenas. Too many Western markets have different ideas about who pays for such things. Then there's the domination of the major markets with NHL teams. Then there's the prime Northwest markets that have been in the WHL sphere for 35 years and fans in this area get it. No league outside the WHL is able to get a core of teams and run with it... that core has to be more than Alaska and Idaho and Bakersfield (as the long-time teams), which is awfully stretched out in the first place, I question one of those markets over the next 5 years, and Alaska's distance causes facepalms among owners and accountants all the time.
I'd be looking at Portland right now. 20% of the time lately, I'm left thinking if Winterhawks owner Bill Gallacher wants to build an American junior league that acts with a LOT more ambition than the USHL. It's only 20% of the time, of course, and I doubt things really go that far.