Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
June 25, 2018 - Pioneer League (PL)
Atlantic League: The new 2019 Atlantic League expansion team for High Point (NC) has narrowed the list of potential team names to three: Dragon Claws, Rockers and Splinters. Six other proposed names - Pioneers, RockerSox, Tri-Stars, Hush Puppies, Iron Dragons, Iron Eagles and the Chairmen - were previously eliminated in the name-the-team contest. The team will start play in the 2019 season.
Northwest League: The short-season Class-A Northwest League recently started its 2018 season with the same eight teams as last season aligned in two divisions. The North Division includes three teams from the state of Washington and one team from Canada (British Columbia) and the South has three Oregon-based teams and one team in Idaho. The league is the same level of play as the New York-Penn League.
Appalachian League (APPY): The advanced Rookie-level APPY started its 2018 season this week with ten teams aligned in five-team East and West divisions. Major League Baseball's Houston Astros pulled out of Greeneville (TN) in the off-season and the Cincinnati Reds took over the market, so the Greeneville Astros became the Greeneville Reds for the 2018 season.
Pioneer League: The advanced Rookie-level Pioneer League started its 2018 season this week with the same eight teams as last season aligned in two divisions. The North division includes four Montana-based teams, while the South division has two Utah-based teams, one team in Idaho and one in Colorado. The league's Helena (MT) Brewers have already announced plans to move to Colorado Springs next season, and this week the owner of the league's Orem (UT) Owlz announced plans to move the team to Pueblo (CO) on the condition the city moves forward with plans to build a new ballpark. Pueblo County approved a memorandum of understanding with the owner of the Owlz and 2020 is the goal for the team's move.
Midwest League: The West Michigan Whitecaps (Grand Rapids) of the low Class-A Midwest League will become the Beer City Bung Hammers for one game in August as a salute to a "Beer City Night".
South Atlantic League: The Delmarva Shorebirds (Salisbury, MD) of low Class-A SAL announced the team will be renamed the Delmarva Scrapple for a game in August as a tribute to the scrapple breakfast meat that is popular in the area.
BIG3 League: The BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league, which features eight touring teams consisting of former National Basketball Association players, started its second season this week with the same teams as last season: the 3-Headed Monsters, 3's Company, Ball Hogs, Ghost Ballers, Killer 3s, Power, Trilogy and Tri-State. Each of the eight Friday-night events on the schedule will feature four games involving all eight teams at eight different arenas across the United States.
National Basketball League of Canada: The NBL-Canada wants a team in the Niagara region of Ontario for the 2018-19 season to replace the departed Niagara River Lions. The league would like to have local ownership run the team, but if not, the league could operate a Niagara franchise. A new Sudbury (Ontario) team is being added to the Central Division for 2018-19, so if a Niagara team materializes, the St. John's Edge (Newfoundland) would move to the Atlantic Division to create a six-team division with its five other regional rivals. The Edge was placed in the Central Division last year to keep each division at five teams.
Junior Basketball Association: The new professional JBA started play this week with all eight teams taking the "Ballers" nickname. Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago and New York are the cities represented in the JBA, although each team does not occupy a specified home arena as games will be played in ten different arenas in the United States. The league played its first two back-to-back games this week in Ontario (CA). The JBA provides an alternative for high school and junior college players who want to play professionally rather than go through the traditional college basketball program before turning pro. Teams will each play eight games through July 2018 with playoffs in August.
Women's Minor League Basketball Association: The WMLBA started its second season with only four Texas-based teams called the Dallas Lightning, Houston Galaxy, San Antonio Troopers and Fort Worth Elite. Of the six teams from last season, the Midwest Reign (Kansas City, KS), Tennessee Storm (Jackson) and Carolina Stars (Columbia, SC) did not return, while the Fort Worth Elite was added. Another new team called the Georgia Classic (Evans) was listed on an early version of the 2018 schedule, but is not playing this season. The WMLBA season runs from mid-June to early August.
Alliance of American Football: The proposed springtime professional AAF announced San Antonio as its eighth and final market for teams that will start league-play in February 2019. San Antonio was home to two previous teams in spring leagues with the San Antonio Gunslingers for two seasons (1984-85) in the United States Football League and the San Antonio Riders for two seasons (1991-92) in the World League of American Football. The seven other AAF markets are Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, Orlando, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and San Diego.
Indoor Football League: A new ownership group has taken over the IFL's Cedar Rapids (IA) Titans franchise and plans to keep the team in the city for the 2019 season. The Titans joined the IFL as a 2012 expansion team. The team's previous ownership also owned the Cedar Rapids Rampage of the Major Arena Soccer League. That Rampage's future in the city is over if a new owner does not come forward, since its ownership will be operating a new Orlando-based MASL expansion team for the 2018-19 season.
National Gridiron League: The NGL is a proposed new spring indoor football league that plans to start play in 2019 with 12 teams aligned in 2 divisions. The NGL currently lists an Eastern Division with the Virginia Redbirds (Roanoke) and five teams called the Destroyers, Blue Bombers, Pioneers, Stampede and Firebirds with no assigned markets. The Western Division has the Kansas Kapitals (Topeka) and five teams called the Bighorns, Twisters, Mudcats, Outlaws and Redsticks with no assigned markets.
The Spring League: The TSL, which is a developmental league and scouting event for professional football talent, announced its next Showcase and game will be held in San Diego next month.
Southern Professional Hockey League: The new Quad Cities SPHL expansion team announced it will be called the Quad City Storm when it starts play in the 2018-19 season. The team's home at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline (IL) had been home to the Quad City Mallards in the higher-level ECHL for the past four season (2014-18), but that team ceased operations after the 2017-18 season. The new SPHL team had hoped to continue using the Mallards nickname, but the ECHL retained the rights to the name.
Chicago Pro Hockey League: The new summertime CPHL will start play next month with professional Chicago-based players from the National Hockey League, American Hockey League and ECHL, along with other amateur developmental players. The CPHL will serve as a supplement to the players' summer training programs. A Pro Division and a Developmental Division will each have four sponsored teams called Team Centric Wealth Management, Team GVN Performance/Prodigy, Team Jack Phelan Auto Group and Team Warrior Hockey. The six-week season has teams playing six games through mid-August.
Major Arena Soccer League 2: A new Albuquerque area indoor soccer team called the New Mexico Runners (Rio Rancho) will start play in the 2018-19 season of the MASL2. The MASL2, also known as the M2, is the second-tier developmental league to the Major Arena Soccer League. The MASL2 recently completed its inaugural 2017-18 season with ten teams aligned regional Eastern and Western conferences.
League1 Ontario: The 2018 season of the pro-am Division-III League1 Ontario is underway with both men's and women's divisions playing from late April through August. The men's division is in its fifth season with 17 teams in a single-table format. A full professional team called Unionville-Milliken SC has been added along with the Alliance United FC and Darby FC, while the North Toronto Nitros have left the league and Durham United is sitting out for 2018. The women's division is in its fourth season with 13 teams in a single-table format. New teams called the Oakland Blue Devils, Hamilton United Elite and DeRo United FA have been added, while the Sanjaxx Lions team is sitting out the 2018 season.
Premiere Ligue de Soccer du Quebec: The men's semi-pro Division-III PLSQ, or Quebec Premiere Soccer League, started is seventh season in late April with eight teams. All seven teams returned from last season and the league added the new CS Febrose team. The PLSQ also started a five-team women's division for the 2018 season.
National Lacrosse League: The indoor NLL has approved the sale of the Vancouver Stealth to the ownership of the National Hockey League's Vancouver Canucks. The team will undergo a rebranding and the new team name will be announced later this summer. The team will also move its home from Langley (British Columbia) to the Rogers Centre in downtown Vancouver. The Stealth is the former Everett-based Washington Stealth that moved to the Vancouver area for the 2014 NLL season.
United Women's Lacrosse League: The UWLX started its third season this weekend with the same four teams it has had since it started play in 2016. These teams include the Baltimore Pride, Boston Storm, Long Island Sound and Philadelphia Force. The UWLX offers women a chance to play post-collegiate lacrosse in a professional environment. UWLX teams do not have home fields, but rather two league games involving all four teams are played as part of various scheduled lacrosse tournaments. For 2018, there will be four UWLX events held at tournaments in Maryland and New Jersey through July, so each team will play a total of four games for the regular season. Semi-final playoffs will be held in Lake Placid (NY) with a championship game scheduled for August 4, 2018 at Harvard Stadium in Boston.
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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