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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
October 14, 2019 - National Basketball League of Canada (NBL Canada)

BASEBALL

New York-Penn League: As the Norwich-based Connecticut Tigers of the short-season Class-A NYPL undergo a rebranding for the 2020 season, the team announced five nickname finalists: the Norwich Golden Roses, Norwich Mill Mules, Norwich Narwhals, Norwich Salty Dogs and Norwich Sea Unicorns. Voting on the new name will run through next week. The Connecticut Tigers came to Norwich for the 2010 season with the relocation of the Oneonta (NY) Tigers.

Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs: The Northern California-based independent Pacific Association is seeking owners for two of its dormant franchises in Pittsburg and Martinez. A team called the Pittsburg Mettle joined the league in 2014, changed to the Pittsburg Diamonds the next season and went dormant for the 2019 season. A team called the Martinez Clippers joined the league for the 2018 season but ran into financial difficulties and was dropped by the league after only one season. In the 2019 season, the league played with five teams, one of which was a travel-only team.

Major League Baseball: The MLB commissioner confirmed there are no plans to move the Oakland A's to Las Vegas at this time. Frustrated by the lack of progress toward a new ballpark in Oakland, the commissioner had warned that the MLB might have to look beyond Oakland as a home for the team with Las Vegas mentioned as an option.

Northwoods League: The group that tried to build a new ballpark in Pewaukee (WI) for a possible team in the summer-collegiate Northwoods League has moved its effort farther west to the suburban Milwaukee village of Summit. Plans for a proposed 3,000-seat ballpark there are facing some opposition. A new ballpark is under construction in Hudson (WI) for a new Northwoods League team called the St. Croix River Hounds that will start play in the 2021 season.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball League of Canada: The NBL-Canada announced its 2019-20 season schedule that will run from late December 2019 to late April 2020 and feature eight teams. The league had ten teams last season aligned in five-team Atlantic and Central divisions, but two Atlantic Division teams called the Cape Breton Highlanders (Nova Scotia) and Saint John Riptide (New Brunswick) were each granted a one-year leave of absence. As of now, all eight teams are aligned in one table for the standings. There is talk of a possible Quebec-based team and another Ontario-based team joining for the 2020-21 season. The league has four Ontario-based teams and one team each in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland/Labrador.

Junior Basketball Association: The JBA, which was established to provide an alternative for high school and junior college basketball players who want to play professionally rather than go through the traditional college basketball program, did not return for a second season in 2019. Last summer, the JBA started play with eight teams (Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago and New York) all taking the "Ballers" nickname, but each team did not actually have a home arena. The JBA games were played in June and July at ten different locations across the United States with each location hosting four teams in back-to-back games. The JBA ran into attendance and financial issues during its inaugural season. After the season, a JBA "USA Team" comprised of select JBA players played 17 games on a European tour. A proposed China tour for late 2018 was cancelled and the league disbanded. The JBA organizer was said to be considering a restart of the JBA for a possible start in the spring or summer of 2020.

American Basketball Association: The semi-pro ABA announced a new team called the Sugarland (TX) Slam will join as a 2020-21 expansion team. This team is under the same ownership of the Katy (TX) Krush team announced a couple of weeks ago and it appears to be replacing the Katy Krush. The ABA announced two new Mexican teams will be joining the league. The Tijuana Pirańas will start play in the 2019-20 season and the Dragones de Tijuana will start play in the 2020-21 season.

FOOTBALL

National Arena League-Champions Indoor Football: The NAL and CIF indoor football leagues announced their proposed new merged league, which was to combine the NAL and the CIF under a new league name for the 2020 season, will not move forward as planned. When the NAL-CIF merger was originally announced, the NAL's Worcester-based Massachusetts Pirates decided not to participate in the new merged league. Now that the merger is off, the Pirates have decided to return to the NAL for the 2020 season that will be the team's third season in the league.

XFL: The proposed new eight-team XFL will hold its initial player draft next week as it prepares to start play in February 2020.

American Arena League: A team called the South Florida Thunder (Palm Beach County) announced it will be joining the AAL for the 2020 season.

HOCKEY

British Columbia Hockey League: Canada's junior-A level BCHL announced the addition of an expansion team called the Cranbrook Bucks (British Columbia) that will become the league's 18th team starting with the 2020-21 season. Cranbrook had been home to the Kootenay ICE of the major-junior Western Hockey League for the past 21 seasons (1998-2019) until that team moved to become the Winnipeg ICE (Manitoba) for the 2019-20 season. With the addition of Cranbrook, the BCHL will undergo a realignment of its current divisions for the 2020-21 season.

ECHL: The minor professional ECHL, which bills itself as the "Premier ‘AA' Hockey League" started its 2019-20 season this week with 26 teams. The league had 27 teams last season but the Manchester (NH) Monarchs folded after the 2018-19 season. With the loss of the Monarchs from the North Division, the Eastern Conference has 13 teams in a six-team North Division and a seven-team South Division. The Western Conference will again have a six-team Central Division and a seven-team Mountain Division.

The ECHL regular season runs through the first week of April 2020. Of the 26 ECHL teams, only the Norfolk Admirals do not have joint affiliations with higher-level American Hockey League and National Hockey League teams.

Professional Women's Hockey Player Association: Although it is not a league, the PWHPA organized a "Dream Gap Tour" for women hockey players who boycotted the 2019-20 season of the only current women's league called the National Women's Hockey League. The tour's first two events were held on September 21-22 in Toronto and October 5-6 in Hudson (NH) with a third event scheduled for Chicago next weekend. Each event features four teams playing a total of two games each day. Teams comprised of PWHPA players have also played exhibition games in San Jose, Boston and Montreal. No other events have been announced at this time.

SOCCER

National Women's Soccer League: France's Lyon-based soccer club called Olympique Lyonnais wants to establish a women's team in the NWSL and is reported to be in discussions with two NWSL teams about taking over a current team in time for the 2020 season.

USL League One (United Soccer League): Major League Soccer's New England Revolution and 2020 expansion team called Inter Miami FC announced they will establish affiliated teams in the Division-III USL League One starting with the 2020 season. The Inter Miami FC team will play at a new stadium being built in Fort Lauderdale that will also be used by the MLS team until its new stadium is completed. Both teams will announce team names later this year. The USL League One started play this season with ten teams and previously announced an expansion team called Union Omaha FC for the 2020 season. Major League Soccer's Orlando City SC will move its USL League One team called Orlando City B to Kissimmee (FL) next season, as the MLS team takes over and redevelops the local baseball stadium called Osceola County Stadium, which was home to the Florida Fire Frogs of the high Class-A Florida State League through the 2019 season, into a soccer and training facility for the organization. The league's North Texas SC, an affiliate of Major League Soccer's FC Dallas, will move its home games from the FC Dallas facility in Frisco to Globe Life Park in Arlington (TX) starting with the 2020 season. The stadium was the home of Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers through the 2019 season.

USL League Two (United Soccer League): The AFC Ann Arbor (Michigan) men's soccer club, which played the past four seasons (2016-19) in the amateur-level National Premier Soccer League, announced plans to move to the pre-professional USL League Two for the 2020 season.

OTHER

Premier Lacrosse League: The tour-based professional PLL recently completed a successful inaugural season after playing ten regular-season weekend events at different venues across the United States and one in Canada. The PLL had four participating league-operated teams called the Archers, Atlas, Chrome and Redwoods for the 2019 season and the league is considering expansion for next season.

Dan Krieger is the creator of 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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National Basketball League of Canada Stories from October 14, 2019


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