Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
May 23, 2016 - Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL)
Can-Am League: The independent Canadian-American League, or Can-Am League, started its 2016 season this week with the same six full-schedule teams as last season. These teams include the New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls), Ottawa Champions, Quebec Capitales (Quebec City), Rockland Boulders (Pomona, NY), Sussex County Miners (Augusta, NJ) and Trois-Rivieres Aigles (Quebec). The 2015 Garden State Grays travel team did not return. The Shikoku Island team from Japan played 20 games against Can-Am teams last season and will return in 2016, along with the Cuban National Team. Both of these foreign teams will each play three to four games against every Can-Am team during the month of June. The Can-Am League played an interlocking schedule with teams from the independent American Association over the past four seasons (2012-15), but that was discontinued for 2016.
American Association: The independent American Association started its 2016 season this week with 12 teams aligned in four-team Central, South and North divisions. The only change for this season was in the South Division as last season's Amarillo Thunderheads and Grand Prairie AirHogs teams were merged into one team called the Texas AirHogs. The AirHogs will play half of its home games in Amarillo and half in Grand Prairie.
New York-Penn League: An investment group has signed a contract to purchase the Batavia (NY) MuckDogs of the short-season Class-A NYPL with plans to move the team to Waldorf (MD) for the 2017 season. The relocated team would play at the current home of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs from the independent Atlantic League. The Blue Crabs team would most likely move to a different market. The deal still needs the approval of Major League Baseball. The MuckDogs have been operated by the Rochester Red Wings of the Triple-A International League for the past eight seasons and the Red Wings will earn 5 percent of the sale price for every year they have operated the team up to a maximum of 50 percent. After this season, the Red Wings will have a 45 percent stake in the sale price of the MuckDogs. The NYPL's Brooklyn Cyclones announced the team will be renamed the Coney Island Franks for one game on July 3, 2016, the day before the Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Eastern League: The Binghamton Mets of the Double-A Eastern League announced the six finalists for the team's new name that will be announced after the 2016 season. The six names included the Bullheads, Gobblers, Rocking Horses, Rumble Ponies and Stud Muffins.
Pecos League: The independent started its sixth season this week with ten teams aligned into five-team Northern and Southern divisions. Of the eight teams from last season, the Las Cruces (NM) Vaqueros and Las Vegas (NM) Train Robbers did not return, but the league added four new teams called the Topeka (KS) Train Robbers, Salina (KS) Stockade, Tucson Saguaros and Great Bend (KS) Boom, which was originally listed as the Great Benders. Other off-season proposed teams that did not make it to the 2016 schedule included the Wichita Falls (TX) Spudders, San Angelo (TX) Conchos and Woodward (OK) Westerners.
Women's Minor League Basketball Association: The proposed new WMLBA wants to become a developmental league for the Women's National Basketball Association and plans to have eight teams playing a three-month Winter Season schedule from October through December 2016. The league is also planning a three-month Spring Season from May to July. The current team list includes the Atlanta Breeze, D.C. Bounce, Dallas Lightning, Houston Galaxy, Nashville Charge, NC Flex (Raleigh), Orlando Edge and San Antonio Troopers.
American Basketball Association: The ABA announced it has added three expansion teams called the LA Palms (Los Angeles), Twin Cities Jazz (Monroe, LA) and a yet-to-be-named team in Springfield (MA) for next season.
Arena Football League: The AFL confirmed it will not be adding a new team in Pittsburgh and will only be expanding to Washington (DC). Apparently, there was a false report that the AFL would be adding an expansion team called the Pittsburgh Pulse. The AFL had a recent team called the Pittsburgh Power that folded after four seasons (2011-14).
American Indoor Football: The Philadelphia Yellow Jackets of the AIF have lost the use of its home arena due to non-payment. The team had to forfeit two home games and rescheduled one to be played later this month in Harrisburg (PA). The AIF's Corpus Christi Fury team has apparently folded, while the Savannah Steam is reported to be having financial issues including various unpaid debts.
American Hockey League: The new Tucson-based AHL team, which involved the purchase and relocation of the league's Springfield (MA) Falcons by the National Hockey League's Arizona Coyotes, has reached a lease agreement at the downtown Convention Center for the 2016-17 season.
Federal Hockey League: The Watertown (NY) Wolves signed a one-year arena lease and will return to the FHL next season after sitting out the 2015-16 season due to arena renovations. The league's new team in St. Clair Shores (MI) announced it will be called the St. Clair Shores Fighting Saints when it starts play in the 2016-17 season.
Southern Professional Hockey League: The Lafayette-based Louisiana IceGators of the SPHL announced the team will suspend operations for the 2016-17 season due to renovations planned for its home arena known as the Cajundome. The team considered playing an extended road schedule to start next season and also looked at the possibility of playing home games in other markets like Baton Rouge or Lake Charles. The IceGators reached an agreement with the league for a one-year leave of absence and the team intends to return for the 2017-18 season. The IceGators joined the SPHL as a 2009-10 expansion team. Although the SPHL is losing the IceGators, the league will grow to ten teams for the 2016-17 season with the addition of the Evansville (IN) Thunderbolts and Roanoke (VA) Rail Yard Dawgs. These expansion teams held their player drafts this week.
ECHL: A potential ownership group has expressed interest in bringing an ECHL expansion team to Portland (ME), whose higher-level American Hockey League team called the Portland Pirates announced a move to Springfield (MA) for the 2016-17 season. The ownership group hopes to have the new ECHL team, also to be called the Portland Pirates, start play in the 2017-18 season.
Major Arena Soccer League: Indoor soccer's MASL announced a new team called the El Paso Coyotes has been added for the 2016-17 season.
United Soccer League: The Division-III USL has awarded an expansion franchise to an ownership group in Nashville for a team to start play in the 2018 season. The Division-II North American Soccer League is also Nashville for expansion, but the USL was the first to grant a franchise. The MLS has become interested in Cincinnati as a potential expansion market after the city's new USL team called FC Cincinnati drew MLS-level crowds to the team's first few home games in its inaugural season.
United Soccer League's "" Premier Development League: The PDL started its 2016 season earlier this month with 67 teams aligned into 4 regional conferences that are further aligned into 10 regional divisions. Some of the new teams added for 2016 include the FC Boston Bolts, FC Golden State Force (Pasadena, CA), Kokomo (IN) Mantis FC, Oklahoma City Energy U-23, Peachtree City (GA) MOBA, San Diego Zest FC, San Francisco City FC, The Villages (FL) FC, Tormenta FC (Statesboro, GA), Tri-Cities FC Otters (Johnson City, TN) and South Florida Surf (Port St. Lucie). The Puget Sound (WA) Gunners were sold and became the Victoria Highlanders (British Columbia) and the Golden State Misioneros were renamed the LA Laguna FC. This week the St. Louis FC of the Division-III United Soccer League purchased the PDL's Springfield (MO) Synergy FC franchise, which will serve as a development team called the St. Louis FC U-23. The PDL team will train at the St. Louis FC facility in St. Louis County, but home games will be played in Springfield (MO) and Collinsville (IL) for the 2016 season. The PDL has the St. Louis Lions team based in St. Charles County. The St. Louis FC U-23 team has been placed in the Southern Conference Mid-South Division, while the St. Louis Lions remain in the Central Conference Heartland Division.
Western Lacrosse Association: The British Columbia-based indoor Senior-A WLA started its 2016 season this week with the same seven teams as last season - the Burnaby Lakers, Coquitlam Adanacs, Langley Thunder, Maple Ridge Burrards, Nanaimo Timbermen, New Westminster Salmonbellies, and Victoria Shamrocks. The season runs from mid-May to early August. At the end of the season, the WLA champion plays the champion of the Ontario-based Major Series Lacrosse for the Mann Cup.
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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