Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
November 23, 2020 - ECHL (ECHL)
Pacific Coast League: Major League Baseball's Houston Astros announced they have dropped the Round Rock (TX) Express as their Triple-A Pacific Coast League affiliate and will make the suburban Houston area's Sugar Land Skeeters team, which has been the lone western team in the unaffiliated independent Atlantic League since the 2012 season, their new Triple-A affiliate starting with the 2021 season. The Round Rock Express played five seasons (2000-04) as a Double-A Texas League team before moving up to the Triple-A level for the 2005 season. Round Rock is expected to get a new MLB affiliate as part of the reorganization of Minor League Baseball for the 2021 season.
International League: After losing its affiliation with Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins last week, the Rochester (NY) Red Wings of the Triple-A International League were announced this week as the new Triple-A affiliate of MLB's Washington Nationals. The Nationals had been the parent club for the Fresno Grizzlies of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. The Grizzlies could be moved down a couple levels to the low Class-A California League, which is reported to be switching from a high Class-A league.
American Girls Baseball: A former player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which operated for 12 seasons (1943-54), is trying to establish a new women's baseball league in Southwest Florida that could utilize unused baseball complexes from October through December.
West Coast League: After cancelling its 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the summer-collegiate WCL announced its schedule for 2021 that will feature 15 teams with the addition of 3 expansion teams called the Nanaimo NightOwls (British Columbia), Kamloops NorthPaws (British Columbia) and Edmonton Riverhawks (Alberta).
Expedition League: The summer-collegiate Expedition League announced a new team called the Canyon County Spuds, based in Caldwell (ID) about 25 miles west of Boise, has joined the league for the 2021 season. The Casper (WY) Horseheads announced they will return in 2021 after sitting out the 2020 season.
National Basketball Association: Due to travel restrictions imposed by the Canadian government as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the NBA's Toronto Raptors will start the 2020-21 season playing its home games in Tampa's Amalie Arena, home of the National Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning. The NHL Florida Panthers' arena in Sunrise (Fort Lauderdale) was also considered and Newark, Nashville, Kansas City (MO) and Louisville had expressed interest in hosting the Raptors.
The Basketball League: As the minor professional TBL moves toward its goal of 32 teams, the league announced it will soon announce its 31st team to be based in the Pacific Northwest. This team will join the region's previously announced Portland (OR) Storm.
Canadian Football League: After cancelling its entire 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the nine-team CFL announced a 2021 "Comeback" regular-season schedule that will run from June 10 through October 30, 2021.
Indoor Football League: The IFL announced its 2021 season schedule that will feature 12 teams each playing a 16-game schedule from April 2 to July 24. The IFL added three new teams called the Louisville Xtreme, Massachusetts Pirates (Worcester) and Northern Arizona Wranglers (Prescott Valley) for its 13th season in 2021. Five of the league's 17 teams are not playing in 2021: the previously announced 2022 Columbus (OH) Wild Dogs expansion team and four teams from last season called the Quad City Steamwheelers, San Diego Strike Force, Oakland Panthers, and Cedar Rapids River Kings that decided not to play in 2021.
Fan Controlled Football: The proposed new fan-interactive FCF, which plans to be the first fan-controlled professional sports league with fans electronically calling plays, recently announced the fan-selected nicknames for the league's four teams are the Glacier Boyz, Beasts, Zappers and Wild Aces. The FCF plans to start its inaugural season in mid-February 2021 with four games of indoor 7-on7 football played at one location.
ECHL: The six teams in the ECHL's North Division â the Newfoundland Growlers (St. John's), Reading Royals, Brampton Beast (Ontario), Maine Mariners (Portland), Adirondack Thunder (Glens Falls, NY) and Worcester (MA) Railers â have decided to voluntarily opt out of participating in a 2020-21 season due to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and potential travel restrictions with Canadian teams in Brampton and Newfoundland. All six teams are expected to return for the 2021-22 season. The 26-team ECHL was to play the season with 13 teams starting next month and the rest starting in January 2021. The league's Atlanta Gladiators and Norfolk Admirals previously announced they would voluntarily sit out the 2020-21 season and the ECHL reportedly has a November 30 deadline for final commitments from teams.
Federal Prospects Hockey League: After playing two seasons (2018-20) in the FPHL, the league's Mentor (OH) Ice Breakers team has decided to fold due to the uncertainty of a 2020-21 season and the prospect of limited fan attendance. The FPHL is now down to nine possible teams for the 2020-21 season, since the Delaware Thunder (Harrington) and the expansion Motor City Rockers (Fraser, MI) previously announced they would sit out the 2020-21 season. The FPHL also announced it has pushed back the start of its 2020-21 season from December 18 to no earlier than January 15, 2021.
3ICE Hockey: The new 3ICE independent three-on-three professional ice hockey league announced the dates for its inaugural 2021 season that will feature eight teams playing weekend tour events in nine cities in the United States and Canada. The eight weekly tour events will run from June 20 to August 7, 2021 followed by a ninth week of playoffs on August 21. The league has narrowed the list of potential cities to 13: Boston, Buffalo, Las Vegas, Nashville, Minneapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Hershey (PA), Grand Rapids (MI) and Providence (RI).
Major League Soccer: The Houston Dynamo of the MLS announced a slight change of its name to the Houston Dynamo Football Club, or Houston Dynamo FC, which is now considered more of a football club than a team. The organization owns the Dynamo, the Houston Dash of the National Women's Soccer League and regional youth affiliates.
National Women's Soccer League: Due to potential challenges from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the professional NWSL announced it will start its 2021 season in mid-April with a month-long Challenge Cup competition, similar to the one utilized in the delayed start of the 2020 season. This will take place in multiple bubble environments, team markets or a combination of the two. The 2021 NWSL regular season will then start in mid-May with each team playing a 24-game schedule. The NWSL's 2022 Los Angeles-based expansion team called the Angel City FC announced it will play home games at the Banc of California Stadium, which is home to Major League Soccer's Los Angeles FC.
Women's Premier Soccer League: The elite-level WPSL announced the Westchester United FC (New York) has been added as a 2021 expansion team. The LA Galaxy OC, which won the 2019 championship of United Women's Soccer, has left the UWS and will join the WPSL as the rebranded SoCal Reds FC for the 2021 season.
National Lacrosse League: The indoor professional NLL's new Fort Worth expansion team announced it will be called the Panther City Lacrosse Club when it starts play in November 2021 for the 2021-22 season. Panther City will be the league's 14th team.
Major League Cricket: The proposed new professional MLC is working with the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Grand Prairie to redesign AirHogs Stadium for a Texas-based MLC franchise when the league starta play in 2022. The stadium had been home to the Texas AirHogs baseball team that recently dropped out of the independent American Association, As the MLC develops, it started Minor League Cricket (MiLC), which played some exhibition games this year. The MLC and MiLC each list 24 potential teams.
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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