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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
June 8, 2020 - American Hockey League (AHL)

BASEBALL

Liga Mexicana de Beisbol: Mexico's top professional baseball league known as the LMB, or the Triple-A level Mexican Baseball League, will have each of its 16 teams play a shortened 2020 season of 48 games starting August 7 and games will not be played behind closed doors. The 2020 LMB season was originally scheduled to run from early April to early August with each team playing 102 games.

West Coast League: The summer-collegiate WCL announced the cancellation of its 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Some WCL teams might try to play games independently.

Northwoods League: One of the three summer-collegiate Northwoods League teams playing in the Bismarck (ND) "pod" of teams has changed from the Bismarck Flickertails to the Mandan Flickertails after fans and sponsors in the nearby community of Mandan decided to house and represent the team.

Expedition League: The ten-team summer-collegiate Expedition League announced it will start its 2020 season on June 26 with only six of its ten teams participating. The league's Badlands Big Sticks (Dickinson, ND), Fremont Moo (NE), Hastings Sodbusters (NE), Pierre Trappers (SD), Souris Valley Sabre Dogs (Minot, ND) and Western Nebraska Pioneers (Gering) will each play a 52-game schedule before fans.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association: The NBA Board of Governors has approved a restart of the 2019-20 season on July 31 with 22 of the league's 30 teams participating in a tournament format. All games will be held without fans at Disney World's ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.

National Basketball Association G-League: The NBA G-League officially cancelled the remainder of its 2019-20 season and playoffs. When the league suspended play on March 12 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic each team had about seven or eight regular-season games remaining.

Women's National Basketball Association: The 12-team WNBA, which postponed the start of its 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, is considering options for starting play at a single location in Florida or Las Vegas as early as July. One plan would have each team play a 22-game season with all games played at the IMG Academy in Bradenton (FL). This was to be the WNBA's 24th season with teams playing a 36-game schedule from May 15 to September 20, 2020.

Universal Basketball Association: The men's semi-pro UBA announced the Honolulu-based Hawaii Swish team, which has played as part of the American Basketball Association the past few seasons, has been added as an expansion team for the UBA's new Western Conference in the 2020-21 season.

Women's Universal Basketball Association: As the WUBA plans its return later this year, it announced the addition of a Northern Conference that will be based in New York and include eight active teams called the Manhattan Watchers, Long Island Venom, New York Aztecs, NYC Immortals, Brooklyn Mamba, Harlem Legends, Queens NY Dragons and the DPH Santiago Basket, a team that currently plays in the Dominican Republic's top international professional league. The WUBA also announced the men's Universal Basketball Association team called the Atlanta Savage will operate a women's team called the Atlanta Lady Savage in the WUBA.

American Basketball Association: The semi-pro ABA announced a Columbus-based expansion team called the Ohio Bruins will be added to the North Central Division for the 2020-21 season.

FOOTBALL

XFL: The judge in the XFL's bankruptcy case has set August 3, 2020 as the auction date for the league's assets. A significant number of bidders are expected and the winning bidder could try to bring the league back as soon as 2021.

Arena Football League: The remaining assets (team equipment, memorabilia and intellectual property) of the defunct AFL, which suspended play after its 2019 season, are up for sale as part of bankruptcy proceedings in a public online auction that started this week and will run through June 23. The intellectual property of all six AFL teams called the Albany Empire, Atlantic City Blackjacks, Baltimore Brigade, Columbus Destroyers, Philadelphia Soul and Washington Valor will be available for bidding.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: The AHL's new Palm Springs franchise, which will be the affiliate of the National Hockey League's new Seattle expansion franchise starting with the 2021-22 season, filed a response last month to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that initially rejected the proposed Palm Springs Firebirds nickname registration. The USPTO had concluded the nickname was too similar to the Flint (MI) Firebirds of the major-junior Ontario Hockey League. In its recent response, the Palm Springs group included permission from the Flint Firebirds for the new AHL team to use the Firebirds name and this update was accepted by the USPTO. Although final approval is still needed, it looks like the Palm Springs Firebirds name might live on.

National Collegiate Development Conference: The independent United States Premier Hockey League's Tier-II junior-level NCDC announced the Boston Advantage club will place a team in the NCDC and also the USPHL's Tier-III Premier Division for the 2020-21 season. Last season's NCDC Boston Bandits team was sold to a Philadelphia group that moved the team to Sewell (NJ) for the 2020-21 season. Also, the NCDC's Rochester Monarchs recently announced the club will no longer operate teams in the NCDC or the USPHL Premier Division for the 2020-21 season.

North American 3 Hockey League: The owner of the Oklahoma City Blazers hockey team, which has been part of the junior-level Western States Hockey League (WSHL) since the 2014-15 season, has purchased the Tier-III NA3HL's dormant Coulee Region Chill (La Crosse, WI) franchise and will move it to Oklahoma City for the 2020-21 season where the team is expected to use the Blazers nickname. This will end the WSHL team in Oklahoma City and is another of many WSHL teams that left for different leagues after the 2019-20 season. The city of La Crosse closed the Chill's home arena after the 2019-20 season due to maintenance costs and the team had announced it would not play in the 2020-21 season.

SOCCER

Canadian Premier League: The eight-team men's professional CPL, along with its owners and players, have agreed to move forward to work out a plan to play a 2020 season, possibly starting in July. The exact details of this plan have yet to be developed, but one option is holding a tournament at one location.

USL Championship (United Soccer League): The 35-team Division-II professional USL Championship league, which suspended play in March only one week into its 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, announced it will tentatively restart play on July 11, 2020. Details on the format of this return to play will be announced in the coming weeks.

USL League One (United Soccer League): The 12-team professional Division-III USL League One, which suspended the start of its 2020 season in March due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, has agreed to tentatively start its second season of play on July 18, 2020. Details on the format of this return to play are still to be announced.

Major League Soccer: The MLS and the MLS Players' Association finalized a new collective bargaining agreement this week that should allow the league to resume its 2020 season with a tournament-style format to be held in Orlando.

Major Arena Soccer League: The MASL has cancelled previously announced plans to close out its 2019-20 season with playoffs featuring eight playoff-eligible teams competing at one location. The question of player safety was raised and whether the league's two Mexico-based teams called the Monterrey Flash and the Soles de Sonora would be able to travel for the proposed playoffs. Utica (NY), home of the league's Utica FC, was said to have been under consideration for hosting these playoffs. The MASL stated it is still considering other opportunities for the 2019-20 playoffs or some other competition ahead of next season. OTHER

Major League Rugby: The professional MLR, which operated with 12 teams in a 2020 season that was cancelled after only a few games due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, announced a second new team called the Dallas Jackals will be added for the 2021 season. Last week, the new Los Angeles Giltinis team was added. In April, the Glendale-based Colorado Raptors team, which was a charter member of the MLR for the 2018 season, announced it was withdrawing from the league.

National Lacrosse League: The 13-team indoor box-lacrosse NLL has officially cancelled the remainder of its 2019-20 season and will start planning for next season. In March, the league suspended play due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with teams having played 10 to 13 games of an 18-game schedule. In April, the league cancelled the remaining games of its 2020 regular season and considered various scenarios to hold post-season playoffs to end the season.

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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