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 Western Hockey League

Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
March 8, 2021 - Western Hockey League (WHL)


BASEBALL

Major League Baseball: MLB announced a delay in the start of the 2021 Triple-A season from early April to early May. The 2021 Triple-A season will also be shortened from 142 to 120 games. With the recent restructuring of the minor leagues, the Triple-A level replaced the 14-team International League and the 16-team Pacific Coast League with the new 20-team Triple-A East and 10-team Triple-A West.

Northwoods League: After sitting out the 2020 season due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, the Thunder Bay Border Cats of the summer-collegiate Northwoods League will also sit out the 2021 season for the same reason. The team plans on returning for the 2022 season.

Prospect League: With off-season expansion to 16 teams and the realignment of teams into Eastern and Western conferences each with two divisions, the summer-collegiate Prospect League is asking fans to submit suggestions to rename the two conferences ahead of the 2021 season.

BASKETBALL

BIG3 League: After cancelling its fourth season in 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the 12-team BIG3 professional 3-on-3 touring basketball league is planning for a return in 2021. Instead of travelling to various cities for weekend events, this summer the BIG3 plans on playing all games in one city and it is negotiating with potential cities to host the season.

National Basketball League of Canada: The eight-team NBL-Canada announced the cancellation of its entire 2020-21 season due to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the inability to play games in front of fans. The league had pushed back the start of its 2020-21 season, which usually runs from late December through April, to March 12, 2021. The 2019-20 season and playoffs were cancelled in mid-March 2020 with about six weeks left. The league will begin planning for the 2021-22 season.

Universal Basketball Association: The semi-pro UBA started its 2021 season last weekend with 22 teams aligned in four regional conferences (Gold, Southern, Pacific and COVID Break), plus one travel team. The UBA was forced to cancel its 2020 season last March after only about five weeks of play.

Florida Basketball Association: The independent minor professional FBA started its short two-week Winter Season last weekend with seven of the league's eight teams participating. The FBA's regular season runs from April through July, but the 2020 spring-summer season was cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Since the FBA's last regular season in 2019, the league has added expansion teams called the Gainesville Mighty Oaks, Brevard County Bobcats (Melbourne) and Clermont Crocs.

FOOTBALL

National Gridiron League: Due to concerns with the coronavirus (COVID-19), the proposed 12-team NGL plans to hold its entire inaugural 2021 season at one facility in Fort Wayne (IN). Each team will play 10 games instead of the planned 18-game schedule from May 1 through June 27, 2021. The NGL has been trying to get off the ground since a proposed first season in 2019. The NGL was originally organized as an indoor league, but switched to a springtime outdoor league. The 12 teams are aligned in three-team divisions: the Atlantic North (also listed as Northeast), Atlantic South (also listed as Southeast), Mid-South (also listed as Central) and Mid-West.

HOCKEY

Federal Prospects Hockey League: The Danbury (CT) Hat Tricks of the minor professional FPHL announced the team will not participate in the 2020-21 season due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. When the FPHL began its 2020-21 season last month with only four teams, the Danbury Hat Tricks and the Danville (IL) Dashers were not included, but had hoped to begin play at a later date.

Canadian Junior Hockey League: Some of the ten Junior-A leagues that make up the CJHL organization have not been able to continue playing this season due to restrictions from the coronavirus (COVID-19). After playing the first five weeks of the 2020-21 season and shutting down in November, the 12-team Manitoba Junior Hockey League announced last month it was cancelling the remainder of the season. Last week the seven-team Superior International Junior Hockey League announced it was cancelling the rest of its 2020-21 season and playoffs. The 18-team British Columbia Hockey League cancelled its pre-season schedule in late November and has yet to restart play. The 12-team Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League stopped its regular season in late November and has not restarted play.

North American Hockey League: The Tier-II junior-level NAHL announced the Amarillo Bulls team will relocate to Mason City (IA) as the North Iowa Bulls for the 2021-22 season. The Bulls' ownership also owns the North Iowa Bulls team in the NAHL's affiliated Tier-III NA3HL and will now operate both teams in Iowa. The Amarillo Bulls joined the NAHL for the 2010-11 season with the relocation of the Alberta Lee (MN) Thunder. The NAHL also announced the Corpus Christi IceRays, Jamestown (NY) Rebels and Springfield (IL) Junior Blues will return next season after voluntarily sitting out this season.

United States Premier Hockey League: The junior-level USPHL announced the Palm Beach Typhoon has joined and will operate Tier-III teams in the USPHL Premier Division and Elite Division for the 2021-22 season. The USPHL had a previous team called the Palm Beach Hawks that folded in 2018.

Western Hockey League: The major-junior WHL has been granted permission for its five British Columbia Division teams to start play on March 26 at two "bubble" locations in Kamloops and Kelowna. Teams will play 24 games within the division with the Kamloops Blazers, Prince George Cougars, and Vancouver Giants to be based in Kamloops, and the Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals to be based in Kelowna. The WHL announced its seven-team East Division will start on March 12, 2021 with each team playing 24 games at a "bubble" in Regina (Saskatchewan).

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: Toronto FC of the MLS will be based in Orlando to start the 2021 season and play home games in either Orlando or Tampa Bay due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in Toronto.

USL Championship (United Soccer League): The Division-II professional USL Championship league announced the alignment for its 31 teams in the 2021 season will feature an Eastern Conference with an eight-team Atlantic Division and an eight-team Central Division, and a Western Conference with a seven-team Mountain Division and an eight-team Pacific Division. Each team will play 32 games and teams will be allowed flexible starts to the season anywhere between April 24 to May 15, 2021. The league operated with 35 teams last season, but lost the Philadelphia Union II, Portland Timbers 2, Reno 1868 FC, St. Louis FC and North Carolina FC, and added the Oakland Roots SC.

Women's Premier Soccer League: The nationwide elite-level WPSL announced it will have 141 teams participating in the 2021 season. There will be 16 conferences across four regions (West, South East and Central). There are 32 expansion teams and 2 returning teams that sat out the past 2 seasons. The WPSL also has 18 teams sitting out this season or in pending status due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.

United Women's Soccer: The pro-am UWS announced its 2021 season will run from May 8 through July 11 and feature 40 teams in five regional conferences across the United States and Canada. The UWS's official reserve league for U20-U23 players has grown to 40 teams for the 2021 season.

USL League One (United Soccer League): The city of Spokane (WA) is reconsidering a proposal for a new 5,000-seat downtown stadium that could become home to a future Division-III USL League One team.

OTHER

Athletes Unlimited - Volleyball League: The new women's professional Athletes Unlimited Volleyball League started its inaugural five-week season last weekend with four teams playing all games at Fair Park Coliseum in Dallas through March 29, 2021. Each team plays three games per-weekend with players earning points for team wins and individual performances. Teams will change each week with the top four athletes in the standings serving as captains and drafting their new teams for the next week.

National Lacrosse League: The new Albany (NY) NLL team, which is the relocated New England Black Wolves (Uncasville, CT) team, has selected the Albany Attack, Albany Black Arrows and Albany FireWolves as the three nickname finalists for fan voting.

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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