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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
October 19, 2020 - American Hockey League (AHL)

BASEBALL

Frontier League: The independent Frontier League's new Ottawa (Ontario) team, which will start play in the 2021 season, announced a name-the-team contest with suggestions open until October 28, 2020. This team will replace the city's most recent team called the Ottawa Champions that played five seasons (2015-19) in the independent Can-Am League, which was merged into the Frontier League after the 2019 season.

Prospect League: The summer-collegiate Prospect League's expansion team to be based in Johnstown (PA) announced it will be called the Johnstown Mill Rats when it starts play in the 2021 season. The name comes from the city's history as a former mill town.

Liga Mexicana de Beisbol: The owner of the Cancun-based Quintana Roo Tigres in Mexico's highest-level LMB (Mexican Baseball League) has notified the league of plans to move the team to San Luis Rio Colorado, a smaller border town in the state of Sonora. The team has been based in Cancun since 2007.

Liga Mexicana del Pacifico: Mexico's premier winter league known as the LMP, or Mexican Pacific League, started its 2020-21 season this week with the same ten teams as last season. Some teams are playing without fans and some teams are playing before a reduced capacity in their stadiums. The LMP regular season runs through December 2020.

BASKETBALL

The Basketball League: The minor professional TBL announced a new Southern California-based team called the West Coast Breeze has been added as the league's 15th expansion team and 27th team overall for the upcoming 2021 season. The league's goal is 32 teams aligned in four regional divisions (West, South, Midwest and Northeast). The TBL plans to announce next week another West Coast team as its 16th expansion team.

American Basketball Association: After playing the past two seasons as the Tri-City Blackhawks, the semi-pro ABA team announced it will return to its former Columbus (GA) Blackhawks name for the upcoming season. With the ABA not starting play until January 2021, the Blackhawks are part of a short-season (August through October) league called the TruVision Elite Basketball League with three other teams called the Montgomery Knights, Atlanta Heat and the Southeast Cobras, which are operated by the Blackhawks.

National Basketball Association: Although the NBA and the players' union are still negotiating, the league might not start its next season until sometime in January 2021, possibly Martin Luther King Day.

FOOTBALL

American West Football Conference: The lower-level professional AWFC announced its new Oregon-based team for the 2021 season will be called the Oregon High Desert Storm. The actual location for the new team will be announced next week.

Championship Indoor Football: With the recent addition of the Wyoming Mustangs (Gillette) as an eighth team, the CIF announced a revised 2021 season schedule that will run from mid-March through mid-June 2021. Most teams will play one non-league game in addition to the ten scheduled league games.

National Gridiron League: The NGL, which has been trying to get of the ground with its first season since 2019, recently stated the league will start play on March 12, 2021 with 12 participating teams. Originally organized as an indoor/arena football league, the NGL stated it is now an outdoor spring football league competing with the XFL and Canadian Football League for players. Each team will play an 18-game schedule over 19 weeks.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: The National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers are reported to be considering a temporary move of its Bakersfield (CA) Condors AHL affiliate to Canada due to current travel restrictions between the United States and Canada that would affect player movement during the season. These restrictions also affect two other Canadian NHL teams and their AHL affiliates—the Vancouver Canucks/AHL's Utica (NY) Comets and the Calgary Flames/AHL's Stockton (CA) Heat. There is the possibility this season of an all-Canadian AHL division that would include these three teams plus the four other Canada-based AHL affiliates: the Manitoba Moose, Toronto Marlies, Laval Rocket and Belleville Senators. The start of the 2020-21 AHL season has been pushed back to December 4, 2020.

North American Hockey League: The Tier-II junior-level NAHL started its 2020-21 season this week with 23 teams aligned in a five-team Midwest Division and three six-team Central, East and South divisions. The league had 26 teams last season, but the Jamestown (NY) Rebels, Springfield (IL) Junior Blues, Corpus Christi IceRays and Topeka Pilots did not return and the league added the new Wichita Falls (TX) Warriors. Other changes included the St. Cloud (MN) Blizzard being renamed the St. Cloud Norsemen and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (PA) Knights relocating to become the Danbury (CT) Junior Hat Tricks. Due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in Alaska, the league's two Alaska-based teams will play early-season home games in Minnesota with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs based in Marshall and the Kenai River Brown Bears based in Breezy Point until at least mid-January 2021.

National Women's Hockey League: The NWHL announced a reorganization of the league ownership model and it will begin the process of establishing independent ownership for four of its six teams. The league was owned by a group of investors that also owned four NWHL teams. The Boston Pride and the NWHL's expansion team called the Toronto Six were the only teams with independent ownership groups.

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League: Due to restrictions from the coronavirus (COVID-19), the 18-team QMJHL has suspended play until October 28 for teams in the six-team East and six-team West divisions that have teams based in the province of Quebec. In the six-team Maritimes Division, all teams will continue playing except the Moncton Wildcats.

Western Hockey League: The 22-team major-junior WHL announced its 2020-21 season is scheduled to open on January 8, 2021 with all regular season games to be played within each team's division. The five-team British Columbia Division and the five-team U.S. Division, which has teams in Washington and Oregon, will remain the same. The normal six-team Central Division will now consist of the five Alberta-based teams with the Swift Current Broncos (Saskatchewan) moving the East Division, which will now have five teams from Saskatchewan and two teams from Manitoba.

United States Premier Hockey League: The independent junior-level USPHL recently started its 2020-21 season earlier this month. The Premier Division has grown from 52 to 62 teams in 9 regional divisions with the addition of 10 teams from the Western States Hockey League, plus new teams called the Elmira (NY) Junior Enforcers, Boston Advantage, MHC (Metro Jets affiliate) and the Wooster (OH) Oilers, which sat out last season. Not returning are the Rochester Monarchs, Connecticut Nighthawks, Lansing Wolves and Jersey Shore Whalers, which dropped early last season. The Boston Bandits relocated under new ownership to become the Bridgewater (NJ) Bandits. The USPHL Elite Division also started play with 19 affiliates of Premier League teams aligned in 4 regional divisions for the 2020-21 season.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The Philadelphia Union, Orlando City FC and Portland Timbers FC of the MLS have decided to pull their lower-level affiliated teams out of the United Soccer League. The Philadelphia Union II and Portland Timbers 2 were part of the Division-II USL Championship league while the Orlando City B was part of the Division-III USL League One. The Portland Timbers 2 will sit out the 2021 season as the MLS works on a new competition model as a pathway for players 18 to 23 years old. The MLS is reported to be working on the return of its Reserve League, which last played in 2014, as a U-23 league possibly at the Division-III level. MLS teams would still be allowed to operate a team at a higher level in the USL if they wanted. Last month, the Montreal Impact of the MLS announced it would add a new U-23 team in 2021, but did not announce which league the team would be part.

National Women's Soccer League: The professional NWSL announced the player draft date to stock the league's new Racing Louisville FC expansion team will be November 12, 2020. The addition of Louisville will grow the league to ten teams for the 2021 season with a previously announced Los Angeles expansion team to join in 2022.

OTHER

World TeamTennis: The WTT announced last month the league will return for its 46th season in 2021 with its season to run from July 11 through July 25.

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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American Hockey League Stories from October 19, 2020


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