Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
May 29, 2018 - Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL)
Pecos League: The independent Pecos League started its 2018 season this week and again has 12 teams. The Hollywood Stars travel team did not return, but the league added the Ruidoso (NM) Osos (Bears). The league had a Ruidoso Osos team in its inaugural 2011 season, but it lasted only one season. Ruidoso will play only four home games and will serve as the league's travel team in 2018. The league was realigned from two to three divisions. The Pacific Division has all of the California teams called the Bakersfield Train Robbers, California City Whiptails, High Desert Yardbirds and Monterey Amberjacks; the Mountain Division has the Alpine (TX) Cowboys, Garden City (KS) Wind, Santa Fe (NM) Fuego and Trinidad (CO) Triggers; and the Southern Division includes the Roswell (NM) Invaders, Ruidoso Osos, Tucson Saguaros and White Sands Pupfish (Alamogordo, NM). Teams will play a 64-game schedule through July.
Carolina League: The high Class-A Carolina League's new Fayetteville (NC) team, which is currently playing as the Buies Creek Astros based on the campus of nearby Campbell University, recently introduced its team colors but will not officially announce its team name until August. The team held a name-the-team contest with Fatbacks, Fly Traps, Jumpers, Wood Dogs and Woodpeckers as choices. The team will take the Fayetteville name when it moves into a new downtown stadium next season.
International League: The Buffalo Bisons of the Triple-A International League will be renamed the Buffalo Wings for a four-game series next month against the Rochester Red Wings, who will be called the Rochester Plates after a local Rochester dish called the Garbage Plate. The Red Wings are also playing as the Plates for every Thursday home game this season after the success of the promotion last season.
New York-Penn League: The Connecticut Tigers (Norwich) of the Double-A Eastern League will play as the New England Lobster Rolls for one game in July 2018 as part of a "New England Night" and a tribute to the region's popular lobster roll sandwich.
Southern League: The Montgomery Biscuits of the Double-A Southern League will become the Greenbow Biscuits as part of a tribute next week to the Forrest Gump movie, which featured the fictitious town of Greenbow (Alabama). The ownership of the league's Mobile BayBears plans to break ground on a new stadium for the team in the Madison area of Huntsville. The stadium is supposed to be ready for the 2020 season when the team is expected to relocate to Huntsville.
Florida State League: The Fort Myers Miracle of the high Class-A FSL will be renamed the Fort Myers Groupers for a game in July 2018 as a tribute to Southwest Florida's favorite fish.
Expedition League: The new summer-collegiate Expedition League started its inaugural 2018 season this week with eight teams aligned in two four-team divisions. The Lewis Division has the Badland Big Sticks (Dickinson, ND), Hub City Hotshots (Aberdeen, SD), Pierre (SD) Trappers and Souris Valley Sabre Dogs (Minot, ND), while the Clark Division includes the Casper (WY) Horseheads, Hastings (NE) Sodbusters, Western Nebraska Pioneers (Gering, NE) and Spearfish (MT) Sasquatch (SD).
American Basketball Association: The ABA announced a new team called the Louisville Legacy will join for the 2018-19 season and the former owner of the league's Boston Conquistadors team is involved. The Louisville-based Kentucky Colonels were part of the ABA's 2004-05 season.
National Basketball Association G-League: The NBA's New Orleans Pelicans have been trying to establish its G-League team at a proposed new arena in Pensacola, but two possible arena sites were not eligible for certain tax credits, so a new location or additional funding will have to be worked out. County officials did not want to vote on the project until a final arena site has been determined.
Arena Football League: Tucson's Rio Nuevo special taxing district has approved funds for improvements to the Tucson Convention Center Arena contingent on the city obtaining an AFL expansion team for the 2019 season. The AFL is operating with only four eastern teams this season. A proposed indoor football team called the Tucson ThunderKats was announced in June 2010 by the Indoor Football League as a 2011 expansion team. The team then switched to the American Indoor Football Association, but suspended operations in November 2010 without ever playing a game.
Alliance of American Football: The proposed new springtime AAF is reported to be considering San Diego as its sixth team location and an official announcement is expected next week. The AAF plans to start play with eight teams in February 2019 and previously announced teams for the markets of Atlanta, Memphis, Orlando, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.
American Arena League: The future of the Lakeland-based Florida Tarpons in the AAL is uncertain. The team recently cancelled its two remaining away games and ended its 2018 season this weekend with a home game against a non-league semi-pro team called the Gulf Coast Tigers. The Tarpons moved to Lakeland from Estero prior to the 2018 season.
ECHL: The ECHL's expansion team for St. John's (Newfoundland) officially announced it will be called the Newfoundland Growlers when it starts play in the 2018-19 season. The nickname is a dog-based theme taken from the Newfoundland breed, which is known for its size and strength. The Shamrocks, Regiment, Surge, Storm and Water Dogs were some other names reported to have been under consideration. The Newfoundland Growlers join the Maine Mariners (Portland) as 2018-19 expansion teams in the league's Eastern Conference North Division.
Southern Professional Hockey League: The SPHL announced a Quad Cities team based in Moline (IL) has been added and will start play in the 2018-19 season. The new Quad Cities team will replace the league's dormant Louisiana IceGators (Lafayette) team, which played seven seasons (2009-16) in the SPHL and never returned after sitting out the 2016-17 season due to planned arena renovations. The new SPHL team replaces the area's Quad City Mallards team that just shut down operations after the 2017-18 season in the higher-level ECHL. The ECHL holds the rights to the Mallards name, so a name-the-team contest has been announced for the SPHL team. The SPHL also announced its Mississippi RiverKings team, which was based in Southhaven just south of Memphis (TN), has suspended operations for the 2018-19 season. The SPHL will seek new ownership and try to bring the team back for the 2019-20 season. The RiverKings started as the Memphis RiverKings and played 19 seasons (1992-2011) in the former Central Hockey League. The team moved its home from Memphis to suburban Southhaven (MS) for the 2000-01 season and eventually was renamed the Mississippi RiverKings prior to the 2007-08 season. The team moved from the CHL to the SPHL for the 2011-12 season.
National Independent Soccer Association: The status of the proposed NISA Division-III pro league is in doubt after its organizer left to start the Madison (WI) team in the new 2019 United Soccer League Division-III league. The NISA had hoped to start in 2019, but has yet to officially announce any teams.
Canadian Premier League: The new professional CPL announced Halifax (Nova Scotia) as the newest location for one of the league's founding teams when it starts play in 2019. The Halifax team will be called the HFX Wanderers, named after the historic Wanderers Amateur Athletic Club, and will play at a new 6,000-seat temporary stadium to be built on the Wanderers Grounds in downtown Halifax.
Major League Soccer: With an MLS announcement planned for Cincinnati next week, it appears the league is close to naming Cincinnati as its next expansion market. The FC Cincinnati of the Division-II United Soccer League has been setting attendance records and the city has approved a location and some funding for a new MLS-style stadium. Reports from Miami state the city's new MLS team could take some form of the Miami Freedom as its name.
National High Stakes League: The owner of the former Burlingame (CA) Dragons from the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League and also the head of a previous attempt to bring a United Soccer League Division-II team to San Francisco has formed the NHSL as a series of 16-team cash prize soccer tournaments beginning with the Bay Area Cup in 2019. The NHSL believes the tournament model will provide new teams and teams that are members of established leagues a way to generate revenue without having to focus on attendance and sponsorships. The NHSL organizer will restart the Burlingame Dragons to participate in the 2019 Bay Area Cup.
National Lacrosse League: The indoor NLL's two new expansion teams for the 2018-19 season called the Philadelphia Wings and San Diego Seals will hold a coin toss next weekend to determine the number one pick in the expansion draft.
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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- Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report - OSC Original by Dan Krieger
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