Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
April 9, 2018 - Southern League (SL)
Major League Baseball: The mayor of Montreal has put her support behind working with a group trying to bring an MLB expansion team to the city. This support is based on the potential ownership group paying most of the costs of a new ballpark for the team. MLB has stated it will not consider expansion to 32 teams until new ballpark situations are settled in the current markets of Tampa Bay and Oakland. Portland and more recently San Antonio have been mentioned as other potential MLB expansion cities.
Southern League: The Jackson (TN) Generals of the Double-A Southern League announced the team will be called the Hub City Hippos for all Friday home games during the 2018 season. The nickname was originally part of an April Fool's Day joke in 2016 that led the team to actually start using the nickname last season in a similar promotion on Friday home games.
Expedition League: The new summer-collegiate Expedition League, which plans to start play in 2018 with eight teams in markets throughout North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska, is already targeting potential 2019 expansion markets like Sheridan (WY), Rapid City (SD), Brandon (Manitoba) and the Montana cities of Butte, Bozeman and Helena.
Midwest Basketball League: The semi-pro MBL started its third spring-summer season this weekend that will run from April through July 2018. The league currently lists 18 teams aligned in five-team Northwest and Southwest divisions and four-team Northeast and Southeast divisions, along with 3 travel teams. The MBL has three new teams called the Indy Show (Indianapolis), Rochester (MN) Roadrunners and the Illinois Bulldogs, a team that was part of the 2017-18 American Basketball Association season. The Minneapolis-based Minnesota Rangers team was renamed the Minnesota Lakers for the 2018 season. The MBL has teams located in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kentucky and Ohio.
North American Basketball League: Teams in the semi-pro NABL's four-team Southeast Division, five-team Midwest Division and five-team Southwest Division started their portions of the 2018 season this weekend. For the 2018 season, the NABL also added a three-team Northeast Division that consisted of three former Premier Basketball League (PBL) teams called the Chautauqua (NY) Hurricanes, Dubois (PA) Dream and Jamestown (NY) Jackals. For its first season in the league, the Northeast Division teams played their games from January through March 2018 with the division champion becoming eligible for the season-ending playoffs. Other new teams for 2018 include the Dallas Diesel, Dallas Mustangs, Texas Toros, Tampa Bay Hawks, Tuscaloosa Titans, Grand Rapids Danger, Indy Diesels, West Michigan Lake Hawks, Ohio Bootleggers (also from the PBL) and the Florida Gymratz, which was the Bradenton Gymratz team in the 2017 Florida Basketball Association. The NABL had 19 teams last season, but only the Miss-Lou Warriors, San Antonio Lions, Savannah Cavaliers and Southern Illinois Pharaohs (Carbondale) returned. Non-returning teams include the Kitsap Admirals, Quad City Flames, Tacoma Thunder, SB Battle (Vancouver), Alamo City Aztecs, Austin Knights, DFW United, Dallas Hoyas, Texas Wolverines (Houston), Huntsville Force, Music City Kings, Atlanta Show, Birmingham Vulcans, Capital City Cardinals, and Panama City Piranhas. The NABL played its inaugural season in 2016.
Circuito de Baloncesto de la Costa del Pacifico (CIBACOPA): Mexico's Pacific Coast Basketball League known as the CIBACOPA, which is the country's second professional basketball league next to the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional (LNBP), started its 2018 season this week with the same ten teams as last season. Teams include the Aguilas Doradas de Durango (Durango), Caballeros de Culiacan (Sinaloa), Frayles de Guasave (Sinaloa), Garra Canera de Navolato (Sinaloa), Halcones de Ciudad Obregon (Sonora), Nauticos de Mazatlan (Sinaloa), Ostioneros de Guaymas (Sonora), Pioneros de Los Mochis (Sinaloa), Rayos de Hermosillo (Sonora) and Zonkeys de Tijuana (Baja California).
National Arena League: The NAL started its second season this weekend with six teams to include the returning Columbus (GA) Lions, Jacksonville Sharks and Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (Allentown, PA), along with three expansion teams called the Maine Mammoths (Portland), Massachusetts Pirates (Worcester) and the Carolina Cobras (Greensboro, NC). The NAL had eight teams in its inaugural 2017 season but five of those teams called the Georgia Firebirds (Albany), Corpus City Rage, High Country Grizzlies (Boone, NC), Monterrey Steel (Mexico) and a Wolfpack/Georgia Doom travel team did not return for the 2018 season. The Jersey Flight (Trenton) was announced as a 2018 expansion team, but it did not meet NAL requirements to participate in the 2018 season.
Alliance of American Football: The proposed new professional AAF, which plans to start in 2019 as a spring football league with eight teams, announced the coach, Steve Spurrier, for its first team that will be based in the Orlando market. Each of the eight AAF teams will play a ten-game schedule that will start right after the Super Bowl in early February 2019.
North American 3 Hockey League: The Austin (MN) Bruins of the Tier-II junior-level North American Hockey League (NAHL) have purchased the Rochester (MN) Ice Hawks team in the Tier-III NA3HL and will have Rochester serve as a feeder to the NAHL team. As part of the agreement, the Rochester team will be renamed the Rochester Grizzlies. The Rochester Ice Hawks first started play in the 1996-97 season as part of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.
ECHL: A group of private investors has expressed interest in bringing an ECHL professional hockey team to Billings (MT), but the city's hockey arena needs improvements including a new ice-making infrastructure. Billings has had some past junior-level hockey teams and had a former pro team called the Montana Magic for the 1983-84 season, which was the final season of the former Central Hockey League.
United Women's Soccer: Last month the elite-level UWS announced its teams and alignment for its 2018 season that will feature a nine-team East Conference, a seven-team Midwest Conference and a six-team West Conference. In the East, the New York Magic did not return, but two new teams called the Connecticut Fusion and Worcester Smiles were added. In the West, the Houston Aces did not return, but the new LA Galaxy OC was added and the Colorado Pride returned after sitting out the 2017 season. In the Midwest, the Toledo Villa and FC Indiana did not return, but two new teams called the Lansing United and Genesee FC (Flint, MI) were added. The UWS started play in 2016 and its season runs from May through July. The league is comprised of college players, aspiring and former professional players, and some international players.
National League of Professional Futsal: The NLPF started its second season this weekend and has nine teams in an Eastern Conference and five California teams in a Western Conference. New teams for 2018 include the Bay Area Futsal Club, Fresno 99 Boys, Columbus (OH) Futsal, St. George (CT) Futsal and the Toronto United FC.
American Ultimate Disc League: Kansas City (MO) held an AUDL showcase event featuring men's and women's teams late last month with the hope of AUDL expansion coming to the city in the future. In late January 2018, the AUDL's Indianapolis AlleyCats men's team announced it was forming a women's team, which eventually became the Indy AlleyCats Red. This women's team has since severed ties with the Indy AlleyCats and will play in 2018 as the Indy Red, associated with the Indiana Ultimate Foundation.
Super Rugby: The international Super Rugby league, which plays by the 15-player rugby union rules, is considering a possible future team being placed in Hawaii. The league currently has 15 teams with a five-team New Zealand Conference, a five-team Australia Conference that includes one team from Japan, and a five-team South Africa Conference that includes a team from Argentina.
Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames, which tracks the changes in league alignments, franchise movements and team nicknames in today's sports world. The publication is available for sale at www.amazon.com.
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