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 American Hockey League

Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
January 11, 2021 - American Hockey League (AHL)


BASEBALL

Frontier League: The Tri-City ValleyCats (Troy, NY), which had been part of the affiliated short-season Class-A New York-Penn League since the 2002 season representing the cities of Troy, Schenectady and Albany, announced they will join the Frontier League for the 2021 season. Major League Baseball recently eliminated the 14-team NYPL as part of a restructuring of Minor League Baseball and the ValleyCats were not granted an MLB affiliation going forward. Prior to the restructuring, the Frontier League was considered an independent league, but it is now designated as an MLB Partner League. With the addition of the expansion Ottawa Titans, the Frontier League is at 16 teams for the upcoming 2021 season.

Major League Baseball: The MLB informed affiliated minor league teams at the Double-A and Class-A levels that spring training for those teams will not start until after MLB and Triple-A players have departed from spring training. This will allow for more social distancing at spring training complexes, but will delay the start of the 2021 season for these lower-level teams, possibly until May.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association G-League: The NBA G-League has confirmed it will play a 2020-21 "bubble season" with all games played at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World in Orlando. No schedule was provided but 17 of the 28 G-League teams, plus the league's select Ignite team, will start play around February 8, 2021. Non-participating teams will be allowed to assign certain roster players to the G-League bubble. The league's 29th team called the Mexico City Capitanes, will not start play as planned this season. Since the NBA's Detroit Pistons are not having its Grand Rapids Drive G-League affiliate play in the 2021 season, the Pistons decided to end its affiliation with the Drive at this time. The Grand Rapids Drive is now considered an independent team looking for a new NBA affiliation. This summer, the Pistons purchased the former Northern Arizona Suns G-League team, which will be moved to a new arena in the Detroit area as the Motor City Cruise for the 2021-22 G-League season.

Professional Collegiate League: The proposed PCL, formerly known as the Historical Basketball League, has selected the Carolina Flight (Charlotte) and DC Stealth (Washington, DC) as the names for two of its eight teams. The PCL will employ college athletes to play a full summer season of basketball and those athletes will also be enrolled as full-time students. The PCL will own all teams under a single-entity ownership model and plans to start in June 2021. Other teams are targeted for Atlanta, Baltimore, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Raleigh and Richmond.

American Basketball Association: Although some teams started play in November and December, the semi-pro ABA officially started its 2020-21 season this week. The league stated that only about 25 percent of its teams are playing this season due to restrictions from the coronavirus (COVID-19). The ABA announced another 2021-22 expansion team called the Fircrest Knights (Seattle area) has been added.

Universal Basketball Association: After cancelling the remainder of its 2019-20 season in May 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the semi-pro UBA announced it will return in 2021 with teams playing a 12-game schedule. The league also announced a new Portland-based Pacific Division will be added in 2021 with five teams called the Oregon Fresh, Portland Weird, VanPort Renaissance, Rose City Reign and Kitsap Admirals. A player draft will be held next month. Last season, the UBA had 39 teams in five regional conferences.

FOOTBALL

American Arena League: The AAL recently posted the alignment for the 17 teams that will be part of the league's 2021 season starting in March. The East will feature the Carolina Predators (Fayetteville, NC), Charlotte Thunder, Jersey Bearcats (Meuchen, NJ), Mississippi Raiders (Hattiesburg), Pennsylvania Union (Harrisburg), Reading (PA) Raptors and Tampa Bay Tornadoes. The Mid West will have the Chicago Power, Indianapolis Enforcers, Music City Fire (Nashville), St. Louis Bandits and West Michigan Ironmen (Muskegon). The Texas-based West will include the Allen Tiger-Cats, El Paso Buccaneers, North Texas Bulls (DFW), San Antonio Gunslingers and the Austin Wild road team. The AAL had 14 teams ready to start play in 2020, but the season was postponed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: The 31-team AHL announced three teams—the Charlotte Checkers, Milwaukee Admirals and Springfield (MA) Thunderbirds—will not participate in the 2020-21 season due to restrictions from the coronavirus (COVID-19). Also due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, four teams have been allowed to play home games at temporary locations for the 2020-21 season. The Binghamton (NY) Devils will be based in Newark (NJ); the Ontario (CA) Reign will play in El Segundo (CA); the Providence (RI) Bruins will play in Marlborough (MA); and the San Diego Gulls will be play home games in Irvine (CA). Since three National Hockey League teams have lost their AHL affiliates, the NHL's Florida Panthers will share Charlotte players with the AHL's Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay's affiliate); the NHL's Nashville Predators will share Milwaukee players with the AHL's Chicago Wolves (Carolina's affiliate); and the NHL's St. Louis Blues will share Springfield players with the AHL's Utica Comets (Vancouver's affiliate). The AHL also announced the alignment for the 2020-21 season will feature 28 teams in five divisions with the addition of a new Canadian Division for the league's four Canadian teams. The AHL season is supposed to start play on February 5, 2021.

ECHL: The ECHL's Toledo Walleye team announced it will not participate in the 2020-21 season. The ECHL started play last month with only 13 of its 26 teams, but the Walleye and the Fort Wayne Komets were given permission to try to start play in February. The Fort Wayne Komets announced this week the team will start play next month with a 50-game schedule.

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League: The 18-team major-junior QMJHL announced that its 12 Quebec-based teams will restart play later this month with games to be played at protected environments in the four QMJHL cities of Chicoutimi, Drummondville, Rimouski and Shawinigan. The QMJHL's six-team Maritime Division suspended play in late November and the league is still evaluating plans for restarting play for those teams.

Western Hockey League: The 22-team major-junior WHL confirmed this week the league will hold a 2020-21 season. The only details provided were that teams would each play a 24-game schedule instead of the traditional 68-game schedule. A previously announced start date was January 8, 2021.

SOCCER

National Independent Soccer Association: The Division-III professional NISA's new Bayonne-based New Jersey Teamsters FC has changed its name to the New Jersey Teamsterz FC for marketing purposes. The club had announced plans to play in the NISA's proposed amateur/reserve-level NISA Nation for the spring 2021 season to develop its team for the professional NISA fall 2021 season. The league's New York Cosmos team is reported to be going on hiatus for the league's 2021 spring season. The NISA plays separate spring and fall seasons and there is speculation the league will go on hiatus for the 2021 spring season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and return with a 2021 fall season.

USL League Two (United Soccer League): The pre-professional USL League Two announced the Toledo Villa FC has joined the league from the National Premier Soccer League and will be part of the Great Lakes Division in 2021.

OTHER

Athletes Unlimited-Volleyball: The first season of the Athletes Unlimited women's professional indoor volleyball league has been moved to the Fair Park Arena in Dallas from February 27 to March 29, 2021. The season was originally to be held at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville but that venue became unavailable due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Four teams will each play a 30-game season. Similar to the Athletes Unlimited women's softball league this past summer, each week individual athletes earn points based on team wins and individual performance. Teams will change each week with the top four athletes in the standings serving as captains and drafting their teams for the next week.

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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