Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
February 10, 2020 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Eastern League: The Manchester-based New Hampshire Fisher Cats of the Double-A Eastern League announced the team will play as the New Hampshire Primaries for a game in July of the 2020 season. The New Hampshire Primaries was the original name given to the team when the New Haven (CT) Ravens planned to relocate to Manchester for the 2004 season. There were some complaints about the Primaries nickname so a name-the-team contest was held with Fisher Cats being selected as the winner. The Fisher Cats also plan on playing some 2020 games as the New Hampshire Mountain Men, which was the nickname with the second most votes in the 2003 name-the-team contest.
New York-Penn League: Minor League Baseball and the city of Batavia (NY) deny reports the Batavia Muckdogs team in the short-season Class-A NYPL has been sold and will be relocated to another city. The league took control of the team in late 2017 when Muckdogs' ownership could not work out a deal for a new buyer or operator of the team. At that time, the league was expected to sell the team.
National Basketball Association Gatorade League (G-League): The Legacy Arena in Birmingham (AL) will close this spring for 18 months of renovation work with plans to become the future home of a G-League team affiliated with the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelican's G-League team is currently playing as the Erie (PA) BayHawks.
American Basketball Association: The ABA announced it will be operating a 2020 ABA Summer League with each participating team playing a 12-game schedule from early June to mid-August. The league will be operated by experienced ABA team owners and it will include teams from other basketball leagues. The ABA has tried the summer league concept in the past. Most recently the late summertime ABA GOLD league was to have eight teams playing at one location in Las Vegas in 2018, but that was cancelled and never rescheduled for 2019 as proposed.
Florida Basketball Association: The semi-pro FBA, which has been playing a spring-summer season since 2012, is currently playing its first three-week FBA Winter League with all six participating teams playing games in Winter Park. Teams include The Pride (Poinciana), Florida Flight (Orlando), Tampa Bay Gunners, St. Petersburg Tide, Winter Park Storm 1 and Winter Park Storm 2. All Winter League teams had teams in the regular 2019 FBA spring-summer season.
American West Football Conference: The indoor AWFC recently posted the schedule for its second season that will run from early March through June 2020. All four teams called the Idaho Horsemen (Nampa), Reno Express, Tri-Cities Fire (Kennewick, WA), and Wenatchee Valley (WA) Skyhawks from the league's inaugural 2020 season will return. The league added the new Yakima (WA) Canines as a new fifth team for the 2020 season.
National Football League: The NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars announced the team will play two regular-season home games in London during the 2020 season. The Jaguars have played one regular-season game per season in London since the 2013 season. International expansion has been talked about by the NFL with London mentioned as a possibility.
XFL: The new XFL started its inaugural 2020 season this weekend with eight teams aligned in four-team conferences. An Eastern Conference features the DC Defenders (Washington, DC), New York Guardians, St. Louis BattleHawks and Tampa Bay Vipers, while a Western Conference has the Dallas Renegades, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats and Seattle Dragons. Each team will play a ten-game schedule from early February to late April.
American Hockey League: The National Hockey League's Vegas Golden Knights have purchased the AHL's San Antonio Rampage franchise and the team will be moved to the Las Vegas area starting with the 2020-21 season. If the transaction is approved by the league, the team would play at the new Lifeguard Arena that is under construction in suburban Henderson as part of the Golden Knights practice facility and headquarters. The San Antonio Rampage are the current AHL affiliate of the NHL's St. Louis Blues through this season, so the Blues would need a new NHL affiliate for 2020-21. The Chicago Wolves are the Golden Knights current AHL affiliate, but the Wolves do not appear interested in entering into an affiliation with the St. Louis Blues, which served as the Wolves NHL affiliate for four seasons (2013-17).
ECHL: Although the owner of the Newfoundland Growlers (St. John's) was unsuccessful in establishing a new ECHL team in Trois-Rivieres (Quebec) for next season, another proposal will be made to place a team in the city's new under-construction arena for the 2021-22 season.
Western States Hockey League: The Meadow Lake Mustangs (Saskatchewan) of the junior-level WSHL's Canadian-based Provincial Division have been shut down by the league with players assigned to different teams. This will leave the division with four teams to finish out the 2019-20 season. The WSHL announced it has found new ownership for its Oklahoma City Blazers team that had to be taken over by the league when its ownership relinquished the franchise back to the WSHL in January 2020.
USL Championship (United Soccer League): The owner of a proposed new professional Division-II USL Championship team in Pawtucket (RI) is working with state and local officials to move forward on plans for a new 7,500-seat soccer stadium for team that could start in 2022. The city of Spokane (WA) is considering construction of a new 5,000-seat soccer stadium that could become home to a USL Championship team.
USL League One (United Soccer League): The baseball stadium that is home to the High Point (NC) Rockers of the independent Atlantic League is being targeted for a future new team in the professional Division-III USL League One. The team could start in the 2021 or 2022 season.
Major League Rugby: The MLR started its third season this weekend with 12 teams aligned in six-team Eastern and Western conferences. The league had nine teams aligned in a single table last season, but has added three new teams called the New England Free Jacks (Boston), Old Glory DC (Washington) and Rugby ATL (Atlanta) for the 2020 season. Last season's Austin Elite Rugby was renamed the Austin Herd in the off-season, but recently changed to the Austin Gilgronis for the 2020 season. The MLR plays the rugby-union style with 15 players aside.
Dan Krieger is the creator of the Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report, which has been tracking changes in the sports world's leagues, teams and nicknames since April 2007.
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