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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
January 19, 2015 - National Basketball League of Canada (NBL Canada)

BASEBALL

East Coast Baseball League: The owner of a new professional baseball team in Watertown (NY) to be called the Watertown Bucks is expected to be part of the inaugural 2015 season in the proposed independent ECBL. The ECBL currently has three other teams called the Newburgh (NY) Newts, Niagara Wild (Welland, Ontario) and Waterloo (Ontario) Whiskey Jacks.

United League Baseball: The independent ULB has ceased operations after operating with only four teams last season. After the 2014 season, the Fort Worth Cats lost the use of its home field and the San Angelo Colts were still having problems with bankruptcy that was entered into during the 2014 season. The ULB started play in 2006 and for the 2011 and 2012 seasons became a division within the North American Baseball League. When the NABL folded after the 2012 season, the ULB was reorganized as a separate league for the 2013 season.

Can-Am League: The independent Can-Am League announced its 2015 season will feature six full-schedule teams. The four teams from last season called the New Jersey Jackals (Montclair), Quebec Capitales (Quebec City), Rockland Boulders (Pomona, NY) and Trois-Rivieres Aigles (Quebec) will return, along with new teams called the Ottawa Champions and Sussex County Miners (Augusta, NJ). In the month of June, each Can-Am team will play a series against a visiting all-start team from Japan's independent Shikoku Island League. For the rest of the season through early September, a travel team called the Garden State Grays will also be part of the Can-Am League schedule. For the fourth season in a row, the 2015 schedule will also feature inter-league games between teams from the Can-Am and the independent American Association.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball League of Canada: A group from the Niagara Falls-St. Catharines (Ontario) area is reported to be close to obtaining a franchise in the NBL-Canada and a team based in Hamilton (Ontario) is also a possibility. The eight-team NBL-Canada is currently playing its fourth season. The league's two teams in New Brunswick, the Saint John Mill Rats and Moncton Miracles, had ownership issues at the start of the season, but the Mill Rats have come under community ownership and the league-owned Miracles might have someone interested in taking over the team.

FOOTBALL

North American Football League: The proposed springtime professional NAFL has announced various regional player combines in March 2014 as the league prepares for its inaugural season that will feature eight teams each playing a six-game schedule from May 16 to June 21. The league now has the eight teams aligned into four two-team divisions: North East (Virginia Crusaders, Connecticut Colonials), North Central (Columbus Flight, Kentucky Thoroughbreds), South East (North Carolina Redwolves, Orlando Sentinels) and South Central (Birmingham Freedom, Memphis Kings).

American 7's Football League: The A7FL plans to start play in March 2015 with eight teams playing 7-on-7 football on a field 40 feet narrower than a typical National Football League field. The league claims it will be a safer game with no special teams plays and with players not wearing helmets or pads to foster better tackling techniques. First-season teams include the New Jersey Mustangs, New Jersey Bullies, Pennsylvania Immortals, Pennsylvania Outlawz, New York Empire, Brooklyn Brawlers, Baltimore Cobras and Virginia Revolution. Each team will play six games from March 21 to April 25, 2015.

HOCKEY

United States Hockey League: The Indiana Ice of the Tier-I junior-level USHL is sitting dormant this season due to the lack of a suitable home arena, but recently obtained approval to return to the league upon completion of a proposed new 4,000-seat hockey arena in northwest Indianapolis. The project might take 18 to 24 months, so the team might not return until at least the 2016-17 season.

Ontario Hockey League: The owner of the Plymouth (MI) Whalers has signed an agreement to sell the major-junior OHL team to the new owners of the Perani Arena in Flint (MI) where the team will start play next season. Discussion of the Whalers relocation started when USA Hockey, the governing body for junior hockey in the United States, announced plans in November 2014 to buy the arena in Plymouth and move its Team USA franchise of the Tier-I United States Hockey League (USHL) from Ann Arbor (MI) to Plymouth. At first, the Whalers' owner had talked of a possible move of the OHL team to Chatham (Ontario), while the arena owners in Flint applied for and then withdrew a franchise application for the USHL. The Flint arena has been home to a Tier-II junior-level North American Hockey League team called the Michigan Warriors since 2010, but that team is expected to be sold and moved out of Flint.

North American 3 East Hockey League: The ten-team NA3EHL, which operated as the independent Northern States Hockey League until the Tier-II North American Hockey League took over operations and renamed the league early in the 2014-15 season, plans to add a team called the Skylands Kings (Stockholm, NJ) for the 2015-16 season. The NA3EHL will try to obtain Tier-III status under the USA Hockey structure for the 2015-16 season.

Women's Professional Hockey League: The organizer of the proposed men's North Atlantic Professional Hockey League is trying to form the new WPHL. The league wants to start with a division of teams in New York and New England for its first season and add a division of teams in Minnesota and Michigan for the second season.

SOCCER

Major Arena Soccer League: The rights to the MASL's struggling Seattle Impact franchise based in Kent (WA) have been purchased by the owner of the amateur-level Tacoma Stars team in the Western Indoor Soccer League (WISL). The MASL team has been renamed the Tacoma Stars and it will take over Seattle's remaining schedule and 3-10 record, while playing its MASL home games out of the ShoWare Center in Kent. The Tacoma Stars will continue to compete in the WISL and play their remaining WISL home games at the Tacoma Soccer Center. The owner of the Tacoma Stars had purchased the rights to the "Tacoma Stars" name in the summer of 2014 and hoped to be part of the MASL, but the league went with a different expansion ownership group. That group was legally unable to use the Tacoma Stars name, so the team was renamed the Seattle Impact. A team called the Tacoma Stars played nine seasons (1983-92) as part of the original Major Indoor Soccer League. Another Tacoma Stars team started play in 2004 as part of the amateur-level Premier Arena Soccer League and moved up to the Professional Arena Soccer League for three seasons (2009-13).

United Soccer Leagues - PRO: Two additional USL PRO teams announced affiliation agreements this week with Major League Soccer (MLS) teams for the upcoming 2015 season. The Wilmington (NC) Hammerheads will be the USL PRO affiliate for the MLS expansion team called New York City FC. The Hammerheads were affiliated with Toronto FC last season, but Toronto is planning to field its own USL PRO team in 2015. The 2015 USL PRO expansion team called St. Louis FC will be the USL PRO affiliate for the Chicago Fire of the MLS. FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls are the last of the 20 MLS teams to officially announce their USL PRO affiliates. FC Dallas is reported to be in final talks for the Arizona United to become its USL PRO affiliate for 2015, while the New York Red Bulls plan to start and operate their own USL PRO team.

National Premier Soccer League: The men's NPSL announced the New York Cosmos of the Division-II North American Soccer League will operate an affiliated developmental team called the New York Cosmos B as part of the 2015 NPSL season. The Carolina RailHawks, Atlanta Silverbacks and Minnesota United of the NASL operated reserve or developmental teams in the NPSL last season.

Professional Futsal League: Organizers of the proposed new Professional Futsal League (PFL) plan to have teams start league play in November 2016 with a preliminary international tournament scheduled for March 2016. Futsal is a five-a-side derivative of soccer that is popular internationally, but different than the six-a-side American indoor soccer game. Futsal uses a smaller soccer ball and goals than indoor soccer; has out-of-bounds lines instead of side walls; and is played on a smaller indoor hard surface. A previous effort to create a league called the PFL was started around 2000 with hopes of starting play in December 2001, but the league never got of the ground.

OTHER

Canadian Lacrosse League (CLAX): The Ontario-based CLAX started its 2015 season last weekend that features the same five teams as last season playing an eight-game schedule from early January to mid-March. Teams include the Barrie Blizzard, Durham Turfdogs, Niagara Lock Monsters (St. Catharines), Ohsweken Demons and Southwest Cyclops (Paris). The Cyclops played home games in Hagersville last season. This is the league's fourth season.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames 2013-14: "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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National Basketball League of Canada Stories from January 19, 2015


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