Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
May 18, 2020 - American Hockey League (AHL)
Pecos League: The independent Pecos League announced the 2020 schedule for its five-team Central Division that will include teams called the Salina Stockade, Roswell Invaders, Santa Fe Fuego, Trinidad Triggers and Tucson Saguaros. Teams will play a 32-game schedule from July 1 through August 29 with all games to be played at the Coastal Baseball Park in Houston. The league hopes to hold a similar short season in California in the fall for five teams representing the league's Pacific Division.
Major League Baseball: The MLB unveiled plans this week to play an 82-game 2020 season starting in early July with teams playing at their home stadiums without fans. The schedule will feature more regional and interleague play with the two East divisions playing each other, the two Central divisions playing each other and the two West divisions playing each other. The designated hitter will be used by all teams.
Liga de Beisbol Profesional de Sonora: The new Double-A level LBPS, or Sonora Professional Baseball League, plans to start play in 2021 with eight teams affiliated with teams from Mexico's top baseball league, the Triple-A level Liga Mexicana de Beisbol, or Mexican Baseball League. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ended plans for the new league to start this season. A previous version of the league known as the Liga Norte de Sonora (Northern League of Sonora) last played in 2014.
Southern League: The city of Jackson (TN) is investigating the finances of the Jackson Generals team in the Double-A Southern League. Apparently, the team was involved in hidden reimbursements from the city for items the team never paid for. The team's future is uncertain with the city facing a budget crunch and the Generals being one of 42 teams being considered for contraction by Major League Baseball.
United Shore Professional Baseball League: The four-team independent developmental USPBL, which was to play a total of 75 games out its stadium in Utica (MI) starting May 8, 2020, announced plans to start its fifth season on June 10. Along with other safety measures, the league will implement social distancing for fans and use only 1,500 of the 4,500 seats in the stadium.
Women's Universal Basketball Association: The WUBA, which recently came under new ownership after sitting idle the past few seasons, announced the dates for its split season for 2020-21. The WUBA National League (D2) will focus on non-professional rookie-level players right out of the NCAA and teams will play 15-game schedules from October 4 to December 6, 2020. The WUBA National Super League (D1) will mostly include overseas players trying to stay in shape during their off-season and teams will play 15-game schedules from May 30 to August 1, 2021. The WUBA plans to set up partnerships with various international basketball federations and currently lists 20 team aligned in a six-team South Division, a six-team West Division and an eight-team North Division.
American Basketball Association: The semi-pro ABA announced a team called the Arundel Raves near Baltimore will be an expansion team in the 2020-21 season.
Arena Football 3: The proposed developmental AF3 has changed to the Alternative Football 3. The league is 7-on-7 indoor football with no kicking game and plans to start in 2021 with at least six teams.
Impact Developmental Football League: The new indoor semi-pro IDFL recently announced the Georgia-lina Lions, based in Augusta (GA) and originally announced as a member of the first-year United Arena League for 2020, have decided to move to the IDFL. The Georgia-lina Lions were part of the semi-pro Elite Indoor Football for the 2019 season.
American Hockey League: The 31-team AHL has decided to cancel the remainder of its 2019-20 season and playoffs due to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The league suspended play in early March when each team had over ten games left on their schedules. This marks the end of the AHL's San Antonio Rampage franchise, which was sold to the National Hockey League's Vegas Golden Knights and will move to Las Vegas for the 2020-21 season. The San Antonio Rampage started play in the AHL's 2002-03 season after the purchase of the league's dormant Adirondack Red Wings (Glens Falls, NY). The team was originally called the San Antonio Stampede but changed its name due to protests from a local semi-pro football team by the same name.
North American Hockey League: The Tier-II junior-level NAHL has approved the relocation of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights to Danbury (CT) where the team will be called the Danbury Junior Hat Tricks starting with the 2020-21 season. The Knights had joined the NAHL for the 2015-16 season. A minor professional hockey team called the Danbury Hat Tricks of the Federal Prospects Hockey League, a Tier-III team called the Danbury Colonials of the North American 3 Hockey League and the Connecticut Whale of the National Women's Hockey League are all based out of the Danbury Arena. Back in March, the NAHL's Topeka Pilots announced a move to the Kansas City area for the 2020-21 season and now the team has been renamed the Kansas City Scouts, which was the name of a National Hockey League team that lasted only two seasons (1974-76) before moving to Denver. The owner of the NAHL's Scouts also owns the ECHL's Kansas City Mavericks minor pro hockey team and is backing a proposed new arena in Olathe (KS) that could become the Scouts new home. The Scouts will temporarily play at an arena in Shawnee (KS). Topeka had been part of the NAHL since the 2007-08 season when the Santa Fe RoadRunners became the Topeka RoadRunners, which then became the Pilots for the 2018-19 season.
Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League: The Elliot Lake Wildcats of Canada's Junior-A NOJHL announced the team will sit out the upcoming 2020-21 season. Due to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the team has been unable to hold fundraising events and attract sponsors for a season whose start date is uncertain at this time.
National Women's Hockey League: The NWHL has cancelled its 2020 Isobel Cup season-ending championship between the Boston Pride and Minnesota Whitecaps due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The league had hoped to reschedule the game when it was first postponed back in March.
United States Premier Hockey League: The Tier-III junior-level USPHL Premier Division has added a new team called the Elmira (NY) Junior Enforcers for the 2020-21 season and the team will share an arena with the Elmira Enforcers minor pro team of the Federal Prospects Hockey League. The city had lost the Elmira Soaring Eagles of the Tier-III North American 3 Hockey League after the 2019-20 season when that team relocated to Holyoke (MA). The USPHL Premier Division also announced the Wooster (OH) Oilers team, which sat out the 2019-20 season, will return for the 2020-21 season under new ownership.
Western Hockey League: The ownership of the major-junior WHL's Portland (OR) Winterhawks team filed for bankruptcy and was put up for sale in receivership since the team was collateral for a loan that the owner was unable to repay. The league could terminate the team's franchise agreement due to the situation, but it is working with the receiver and team management to find new ownership for the Winterhawks.
Major League Soccer: There has been more talk about MLS trying to restart its 2020 season in late June at the Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando with all 26 teams participating in a tournament-style season and games played without fans. MLS announced the creation of a new elite youth player development competition with 95 founding members throughout the U.S. and Canada. Last month, the U.S. Soccer Federation decided to drop its Development Academy program, so 65 elite academy clubs from that program will join the 30 existing MLS club academies (26 for current MLS teams and 4 for future MLS expansion teams) in the new MLS platform. Details on the competition structure and the platform's official brand will be announced later. Additional clubs will be encouraged to apply.
USL Championship (United Soccer League): The opening of a proposed new soccer stadium being planned for a Division-II USL Championship team in Des Moines (IA) has been delayed until March 2023. The potential ownership group, which operates the Des Moines Menace in the USL League Two, has been unable to complete a financing plan due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The developer trying to bring a USL Championship team to a proposed 18,000-seat soccer stadium on East Bay (Concord, CA) has decided to pull the plug on the project due to the uncertain future of pro sports from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and obstacles in dealing with local and state officials. The USL Championship and the Division-III professional USL League One hope they can start play in the coming weeks, but it might include regionalized competition or some other structure if the traditional league format is not possible.
National Pro Fastpitch: The women's NPF softball league announced the cancellation of its entire 2020 season, which was originally set to start on April 10, due to the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The league's Aussie Peppers of Minnesota (Mankato), comprised of Australian national players under Softball Australia, and the Canadian Wild of Southern Illinois (Marion), comprised of Canadian players associated with Softball Canada, had already dropped out of the 2020 season mainly due to travel restrictions. The NPF lists three other teams called the Chicago Bandits, Cleveland Comets and the California Commotion (Los Angeles).
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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