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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
December 7, 2020 - NBA G League (G League)


BASEBALL

Frontier League: The Frontier League's new expansion team to be based in Ottawa (Ontario) will be called the Ottawa Titans when it starts play in the 2021 season. The city's most recent team was the Ottawa Champions that played five seasons (2015-19) in the Can-Am League, which was merged into the Frontier League for the 2020 season. Ottawa was not included in that merger, but the 2020 Frontier League season was never played due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

MLB Draft League: Major League Baseball (MLB) announced the five founding teams in the new MLB Draft League, which will be focused on the top prospects eligible to be drafted by MLB clubs for that summer. It will be operated by Prep Baseball Report. Teams include the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, OH), State College Spikes, West Virginia Black Bears (Morgantown) and the Williamsport (PA) Crosscutters from the former short-season Class-A affiliated New York-Penn League, along with the Trenton (NJ) Thunder team that recently lost its Double-A Eastern League affiliation with the New York Yankees. The league stated it is in discussions with a possible sixth team.

New York-Penn League: The ownership of the Staten Island Yankees team, which was the former short-season Class-A NYPL affiliate of the New York Yankees, announced the team has ceased operations. Joining the independent Atlantic League was an option, but ownership said that business model would not work and someone else would need to save baseball in Staten Island. Of the 13 other NYPL teams, 2 were retained as full-season affiliated teams and 4 joined the new MLB Draft League. The other NYPL teams were offered MLB Draft League memberships and could still join, but some were still hoping for an MLB affiliation. If that does not happen, there are independent or summer-collegiate league options.

Appalachian League: The new summer-collegiate version of the Appalachian League, which was a prior advanced Rookie-level league with teams affiliated and owned by Major League Baseball teams, announced the 2021 schedule for its ten teams. The league is part of the new Major League Baseball (MLB) and USA Baseball Prospect Development Pipeline and will be for rising college freshman and sophomore players. Each team will play a 54-game schedule from June 3 through August 7, 2021. All ten markets are the same as before, but all teams will select new names to be announced in the near future.

Pioneer League: As part of the reorganization of Minor League Baseball, the former affiliated short-season advanced Rookie-level Pioneer League is now an independent league and one of Major League Baseball's Partner Leagues. The league will still have eight teams. Seven teams will keep their same name and location, while the Orem (UT) Owlz will move to Windsor (CO) as the Northern Colorado Owlz. The independent Atlantic League, American Association and Frontier League are also MLB Partner Leagues.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Gatorade League (G-League): The NBA's G-League is reported to be considering a shortened 2020-21 season played at one location in Atlanta. Teams were to inform the league last week if they will participate, so all G-League teams might not be part of this season.

The Basketball League: The minor professional TBL reported its 20th expansion team since last season and 32nd team overall for the upcoming 2021 season will most likely be based in Nevada. The TBL had the Nevada Desert Dogs (Mesquite) in the 2018 season and the renamed Mesquite Desert Dogs in 2019. The TBL also announced the 2021 season will start on April 1.

FOOTBALL

National Gridiron League: The proposed 12-team NGL, which was originally to start in 2019 as an indoor/arena football league and now will be a spring football league competing with the XFL and the Canadian Football League, has been holding player tryouts and started selling season tickets for its inaugural season that is supposed to start in 2021.

Freedom Football League: The proposed new FFL, which is a spring-summer outdoor league started by a group of former National Football League players, now has eight teams listed instead of ten. The Oklahoma City Power is gone from the Western Conference and the Connecticut Underground is no longer listed with the Eastern Conference teams. The Birmingham Kings team is now the Alabama Airmen.

HOCKEY

ECHL: The ownership group trying to bring a 2021-22 ECHL expansion team to a new arena in Trois-Rivieres (Quebec) signed a five-year lease agreement this week with the city. If the ECHL team is approved, it is expected to be an affiliate of the National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens.

United States Premier Hockey League: Due to various coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions across the country, the independent junior-level USPHL, which includes the Tier-II 13-team National Collegiate Development Conference, the Tier-III 62-team Premier Division and Tier-III 19-team Elite Division, has set up a "Hub City Concept" at the Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa. Participating teams will train and play 20 games at the complex from early January to mid-February.

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League: The 18-team major-junior QMJHL announced the suspension of play for all league games until January 3, 2021 due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in the provinces with QMJHL teams.

Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League: Canada's Junior-A NOJHL recently started its 2020-21 season with only 8 of its 12 teams due to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and Powassan Voodoos are facing local restrictions; the Soo Eagles (Michigan) have travel restrictions between the United States and Canada; and the Lake Elliot Wildcats are sitting out the season.

Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League: Canada's 12-team Junior-A SJHL postponed play in its 2020-21 season as of November 27 and will not restart until after Christmas due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Superior-International Junior Hockey League: Canada's Junior-A SIJHL started its 2020-21 season with only the five teams based in Northwestern Ontario, since the league's two United States-based teams called the Thief River Falls (MN) Norskies and Wisconsin Lumberjacks (Spooner) are not participating because of coronavirus (COVID-19) travel restrictions between Canada and the United States. The league has added games against two lower-level U18-AAA teams called the Kenora Thistles and Thunder Bay Kings to help round out the schedule. Kenora will play against the three western teams and Thunder Bay will play against the two SIJHL Thunder Bay teams. Games against these two "visiting" teams will not count in the standings.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The Montreal Impact of the MLS were reported to be considering a name change to the Montreal FC. This report was received with negative reactions from fans of the team.

National Women's Soccer League: Players on the NWSL's Utah Royals FC have reportedly been informed the team will move to Kansas City. An official announcement is expected next week.

National Independent Soccer Association: The Division-III professional NISA announced an affiliation with the amateur-level Mountain Premier League, which plans to have teams in Colorado, Utah and Idaho in 2021. The NISA previously announced affiliations with three other regional amateur leagues.

Major Arena Soccer League: The MASL announced plans for a modified 2020-21 season that could start on December 31, 2020 with only 11 of the league's teams: the Baltimore Blast, Harrisburg Heat, Florida Tropics (Lakeland), Rochester Lancers, Utica City FC, Ontario (CA) Fury, San Diego Sockers, Tacoma Stars, Dallas Sidekicks, Kansas City Comets and St. Louis Ambush. Five teams called the Mesquite (TX) Outlaws, Turlock Cal Express, Milwaukee Wave, and Mexico's Soles de Sonora and Monterrey Flash will voluntarily sit out the 2020-21 season and remain MASL members. The Orlando SeaWolves team, which struggled in the 2019-20 season and its operations taken over by the MASL, was not mentioned in the announcement.

OTHER

National Pro Fastpitch: The NPF women's softball league announced the cancellation of its entire 2021 summertime season due to restrictions from the coronavirus (COVID-19). The NPF had also cancelled its entire 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to players from the United States, the NPF includes players from Australia, Canada and Mexico representing their country's national and Olympic teams on three of the five NPF teams—the Marion-based Canadian Wild of Southern Illinois (Canada), the Minnesota-based Aussie Peppers (Australia) and Cleveland Comets (Mexico). The other NPF teams are the Chicago Bandits and California Commotion.

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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