Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
May 9, 2016 - American Hockey League (AHL)
Eastern League: After starting the 2016 season with a 37-day road trip due to ongoing construction of its new stadium, the Hartford Yard Goats of the Double-A Eastern League announced the team will host nine home games this month in Norwich (CT), about 40 miles southeast of Hartford. The games will be played at the home of the Connecticut Tigers, a team in the short-season Class-A New York-Penn League. The Yard Goats are last season's New Britain Rock Cats team that relocated to Hartford. There were some delays in completing the new Hartford stadium in time for the start of the 2016 season and developers recently announced they were unable to meet a May 17 deadline.
Florida State League: Officials in Kissimmee (FL) report that the city will become home to a team in the 2017 season of the high Class-A FSL. The relocating team has not yet been announced, but it is expected to be the Brevard County Manatees team, which is currently based out of Space Coast Stadium in the Viera/Melbourne (FL) area. Over the past few years, the Manatees have been looking at other possible locations for the team and recently the United States Specialty Sports Association moved its operations from Kissimmee to Space Coast Stadium. Kissimmee last had an FSL team called the Kissimmee Cobras that played its final season in 2000.
American Basketball Association: After sitting out the 2015-16 season, the Gainesville (GA) Heat of the ABA announced the team will return for the 2016-17 season.
National Basketball League of Canada: The NBL-Canada is looking for investors to support a new team in the Kitchener-Waterloo (Ontario) market. A competing league called the Canadian Basketball League (CBL), which never got off the ground as planned for a 2016 season, announced and then withdrew Waterloo for consideration as a location for a team in the league's inaugural season. The NBL-Canada was interested in the Kitchener-Waterloo market when the league was organizing for its inaugural 2011-12 season and rejected an expansion application from a Kitchener-Waterloo group a few years ago.
Canadian Basketball League: Not much has been heard about the proposed CBL after the league postponed its inaugural season earlier this year. The CBL planned to start play in the fall of 2015 with four Ontario-based teams in Hamilton, Ottawa, Scarborough and Waterloo. The league also talked of eventually creating a division of teams in western Canada anchored by a team in Vancouver. The start of the inaugural season was pushed back to early February 2016 with Durham replacing Waterloo. The league ran into problems with an arena lease in Hamilton, so it postponed its start until next season. The CBL currently lists proposed Ontario-based teams in Hamilton, Durham, Ottawa, Scarborough and Wellington.
Ligue de Basketball du Quebec: The elite-level LBQ, or Basketball League of Quebec, started its 2016 season last month with six teams. The league had nine teams last season, but five did not return and the league added two new teams. Teams for 2016 include Capitale-Nationale (Quebec City), Thetford Mines, NDG (Montreal), Royale de Quebec (Laval), Basketball3Rivieres (Trois-Rivieres) and Monteregie.
United States Women's Football League: The USWFL, which evolved from the 2015 Women's Spring Football League, started its 2016 season last week with eight teams on the league schedules.
Ladies American Football League: The eight-player semi-pro LAFL recently started its inaugural 2016 outdoor season with three teams called the Music City Misfits (Nashville), Cape Fear Thunder (Fayetteville, NC) and Arkansas Xtra. A team called the Arkansas Falcons, formerly the Arkansas Rampage, was announced as a 2017 expansion team. The LAFL teams are considered developmental teams for the new Ladies Indoor Football League that plans to start play in the fall of 2016 with four Midwest-based teams called the Chicago Assault, Milwaukee Ice, Iowa Heartbreakers (Council Bluffs) and Minneapolis Storm.
Rivals Professional Football League: The RPFL, which claims to be a developmental league for players trying to get noticed by the National Football League, Canadian Football League or Arena Football League, started its third season late last month with only three Michigan-based teams called the Oakland County Racers, Pontiac Generals and Detroit Cougars. The league had four teams last season and four teams participate in the 2016 player draft, but the Macomb County Bearcats are not part of the 2016 schedule. Each team plays the other teams twice over a six-week regular season that ends in early June.
China Arena Football League: The new CAFL, which will be China's first professional football league and will play U.S.-style arena football, announced the six teams that will participate in a five-week CAFL Super Series during October 2016. The six teams will be the Beijing Lions, Shanghai Skywalkers, Guangzhou Power, Shenzhen Naja, Dalian Dragon Kings and Qingdao Clipper. Three games involving all six teams will be played each weekend in five of the cities with Shanghai hosting the inaugural China Bowl on November 5, 2016.
American Hockey League: After an announcement last month that the AHL's Springfield (MA) Falcons have been sold and will move to Tucson (AZ), the league's Portland (ME) Pirates signed a letter of intent to move the team to Springfield for next season. The Portland Pirates ranked 29th and the Springfield Falcons ranked 30th in attendance for the 2015-16 season. The league still needs to approve the relocation of both the Falcons and the Pirates. The Portland Pirates joined the AHL when the Baltimore Skipjacks team was relocated for the 1993-94 season. There has already been discussion about Portland acquiring another minor pro hockey team in the future, possibly in the ECHL. The city of Pasadena (TX) in the Houston area is considering construction of a new arena and has had preliminary discussions with the AHL about a future team. The AHL had a previous team called the Houston Aeros that moved to Des Moines to become the Iowa Wild for the 2013-14 season.
Western Hockey League: The Vancouver Giants (British Columbia) of the major-junior WHL are moving to the smaller 5,200-seat Langley Events Center in Langley (British Columbia), which is about 30 miles away and still considered part of the Greater Vancouver market. The team is expected to keep the Vancouver Giants name. The Giants had been playing to smaller crowds over the past few years in the 17,000-seat Pacific Coliseum, which was the former home of the National Hockey League's Vancouver Canucks. The Giants' owner had talked in the past of possibly moving the team to a proposed new arena in Surrey (British Columbia). The Langley Events Center has been home to a Canadian junior-A team called the Langley Rivermen in the British Columbia Hockey League for the past seven seasons, but that team is expected to move to another location.
Western States Hockey League: The junior-level WSHL, which is affiliated with the Amateur Athletic Union, announced the Bellingham (WA) Blazers have been approved to join for the 2016-17 season. The Blazers played the past four seasons in USA Hockey's Tier-III Northern Pacific Hockey League. The WSHL has the Seattle Totems and Southern Oregon Spartans (Medford) teams that both previously left the NPHL to join the WSHL for the 2012-13 season.
Indoor Professional League: The new IPL, which was formed by the owner of the Baltimore Blast from the Major Arena Soccer League, announced four initial league members for an inaugural season that will start in November 2016. The IPL announced the Baltimore Blast, Harrisburg Heat and St. Louis Ambush from the 2015-16 MASL, along with a new team called the Florida Tropics SC (Lakeland), will be part of the new league. The IPL wants to start with eight to ten teams and additional teams will be announced in the next 90 days. The former MASL teams were not satisfied with the MASL business structure and the stability of some of its franchises. The MASL plans to move forward after losing some teams to the IPL.
North American Soccer League: The Division-II NASL and the Division-III United Soccer League are both exploring options to bring a men's professional soccer team to the Nashville market. The city currently has an elite-level amateur team in the men's National Premier Soccer League.
Red River Professional Rugby League: Some of the teams in USA Rugby's Red River Men's Division I are looking to form a new professional rugby league currently referred to as the Red River Professional League. The Austin Huns club is spearheading the new pro league that could start in the fall of this year. Another Austin-based club called the Austin Blacks and the Griffins (Allen, TX), along with clubs in Houston, New Orleans and Oklahoma City, are reported to become part of the league.
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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