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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
June 29, 2015 - NBA G League (G League)

BASEBALL

Ozark Pro Baseball League: The proposed new OPBL plans to start early next month with six teams called the Black Bears, Copperheads, Cottonmouths, Mountaineers, Ridgerunners and Whitetails. Original plans to have all teams based out of Price Cutter Park in Ozark (MO), just south of Springfield, while barnstorming to other sites in the area has fallen through. For the first season, the league will not be utilizing Price Cutter Park and plans to rotate the six teams among several towns in northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri. Mountain Head (AR) has been mentioned as a possible home for some games along with Branson, Nixa, Ozark, West Plains, Lebanon and possibly Springfield in Missouri.

Arizona League: The pure rookie-level AzL started its 2015 season this week with 14 teams. The teams are operated by Major League Baseball (MLB) organizations and play at various spring training complexes around the Phoenix area. After dropping out for the 2014 season, the Kansas City Royals added a team in the 2015 AzL. The Royals were returned to the West Division, while the White Sox were moved from the West to the Central Division. MLB's other pure rookie league called the Gulf Coast League (GCL) also started play with the same 16 Florida-based teams aligned into 4 four-team divisions.

Florida State League: The Brevard County Manatees of the high Class-A FSL are again looking for a new home ballpark. The city of Palm Bay, just south of the Manatees' current location in the Melbourne area, has hired a consultant for a new development that could include a ballpark for the Manatees.

South Atlantic League (SALLY): Minor League Baseball issued a July 31, 2015 for details on a proposed new stadium in Spotsylvania County (VA) for the relocation of the Hagerstown (MD) Suns in the low Class-A SALLY.

United Shore Professional Baseball League: The proposed new three-team USPBL, which was formerly referred to here as the yet-to-be-named Michigan Baseball League, has broken ground on a new stadium in Utica (MI) that will be home to all three teams. Each of the three teams will play a 50-game season starting in June 2016.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Development League (D-League): The Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association are expected to announce they have acquired a D-League team that will start play in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga for the 2015-16 season. A minor basketball team called the Mississauga Power has been part of National Basketball League of Canada for the past few seasons, but that team could end up folding with the arrival of a D-League team.

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced a team called the Mid South Echoes has been added as an expansion team for the upcoming 2015-16 season. The Echoes will be based just north of Memphis in Millington (TN). The league added a new team called the Memphis Lions for the 2014-15 season and has had other Memphis-based teams called the Bluff City Reign (2011-13) and the Memphis Houn'Dawgs (2000-01).

American Basketball League: The ABL returned for its third season this month and again has four Florida-based teams. A team called the Orlando Whalers replaced the Pompano Beach Cobras, while the Fort Lauderdale Sharks, Orlando Lightning and Palm Beach Hurricanes returned from last season. Last year, the ABL talked of adding a division of teams from the Bahamas, but that has yet to happen.

FOOTBALL

American Indoor Football: The AIF announced it will return to the Atlanta market for the 2016 season with a new team called the Atlanta Vultures. The league had a team called the Atlanta Sharks that joined for the 2014 season, but played only four games as a travel team. The Sharks returned to the AIF for the 2015 season and were supposed to play home games at an arena in Loganville (GA), but the team again became a travel team and eventually stopped playing during the season.

National Pro-Indoor Football: The new NPIF and its parent organization called North America Indoor Football (NAIF) have been sold to the ownership of the NPIF's Owensboro-based Kentucky Knights team. The former owner of the NAIF/NPIF will retain ownership of three other leagues (North America Developmental Football, Ladies Indoor Football League and Youth Indoor Football League) that had been affiliated with the NAIF. The NPIF completed what it called the first "mini season" with a few teams playing some games in 2015. The NPIF plans to start its first full season in 2016 with a schedule running from March to July.

HOCKEY

Federal Hockey League: After winning the FHL championship in its inaugural 2014-15 season, the Watertown (NY) Wolves announced the team will sit out the 2015-16 season due to renovations planned for its home arena. The team looked at other possible temporary arena sites within a 70-mile radius of Watertown, but found no suitable option. The team plans to return for the 2016-17 season. The FHL also announced its new team based in Brewster (NY) will be called the Stateline Whalers. When the league's Danbury (CT) Whalers lost their arena lease for the 2015-16 season, a new team was formed in Brewster, which is just west of Danbury. The Danbury team went on inactive status with the league and waived its territorial and naming rights to the Brewster franchise. The FHL then announced a new ownership group will operate a new expansion team in Danbury under a new name for the 2015-16 season.

National Women's Hockey League: The new NWHL, which plans to start play this fall with four teams in the northeastern United States, held its inaugural player draft last week. Teams will include the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale (Stamford) and New York Riveters (Brooklyn).

National Hockey League: The NHL announced it will start accepting applications for possible future expansion. The league currently has a 16-team Eastern Conference and a 14-team Western Conference, so it is expected to be looking to add two teams. Las Vegas, Quebec City, Seattle and a second team in Toronto have expressed the most interest in expansion with new arenas currently under construction in Las Vegas and Quebec City. The league also received expansion interest in the past from groups in Milwaukee, Kansas City and Portland (OR). The 2017-18 season would be the earliest for an expansion team to start play. The NHL's Arizona Coyotes are in a legal battle with the city of Glendale and the team may be forced to relocate if the city cancels its arena lease.

Western Hockey League: The major-junior WHL, which is one of three major-junior leagues under the Canadian Hockey League, announced its 2015-16 season schedule that will feature the same 22 teams as last season. The Eastern Conference has six-team East and Central divisions, while the Western Conference has five-team British Columbia and United States divisions.

Major League Roller Hockey "" Super League: The MLRH started the second year of its summertime Super League earlier this month. The 2015 season will have 11 teams with the Chicago Dogs, Detroit Phoenix, Ohio River Monsters (Columbus/Cincinnati), Pennsylvania Inferno, Philadelphia Demons, D.C. Filibusters (Washington, DC) and Pittsburgh Steel in the East and the Anaheim Bullfrogs, SoCal Lobsterz, Hollywood Dream and Los Angeles X-Treme in the West. The western teams will not start play until the middle of July.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: If the Minneapolis-based MLS expansion group cannot work out a deal for a new soccer-specific stadium site in the downtown area of the city, the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Park has a proposed an alternate site that could be available for the stadium. The owners of the Charlotte Independence in the Division-III United Soccer League are still interested in obtaining an MLS franchise. The city of Charlotte is considering the demolition and reconstruction of a local stadium for a possible MLS team.

American Soccer League: The eight-team professional ASL is finishing up its inaugural 2014-15 fall-spring season and is planning expansion for next season. The ASL reports it has secured three additional Northeast Conference teams in Lancaster (PA), Worcester (MA) and Long Island (NY). Ownership groups and locations for a new Southeast Conference of teams will be announced at a league meeting late next week.

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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