Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
May 31, 2021 - Atlantic League (AtL)
Atlantic League: The independent Atlantic League, which is now a Partner League of Major League Baseball (MLB), started its 2021 season this week with eight teams aligned in a four-team North Division and a four-team South Division. Although a few Atlantic League teams played some games last season, the league cancelled its official 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Of the eight teams from 2020, the Sugar Land Skeeters became an affiliated team in the new 2021 Triple-A West League and the Somerset Patriots became an affiliated team in the new 2021 Double-A Northeast League. The league added the Gastonia (NC) Honey Hunters expansion team for 2021, along with two teams called the Lexington (KY) Legends and West Virginia Power (Charleston) that lost MLB affiliations in the former low Class-A South Atlantic League. The league's Road Warriors travel-only team was dropped for 2021.
Frontier League: The independent Frontier League, which is now a Partner League of Major League Baseball (MLB), started its 2021 season this week with 14 teams aligned in three-team Atlantic and Northeast divisions and four-team Central and West divisions. After adding five teams from the Can-Am League for the 2020 season, along with the Florence (KY) Freedom being renamed the Florence Y'alls and the Rockland Boulders (Pomona, NY) being renamed the New York Boulders, the Frontier League was forced to cancel its 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Some teams played games in 2020 as part of various regional and local competitions. The league planned to have 16 teams for the 2021 season with the addition of the Ottawa Titans expansion team and the Tri-City ValleyCats (Troy, NY) team, which lost its MLB affiliation when the short-season Class-A New York-Penn League was shut down in the restructuring of Minor League Baseball. Last month, due to potential coronavirus (COVID-19) travel restrictions, the league's two Quebec-based teams called the Trois-Rivieres Aigles and Quebec Capitales (Quebec City) decided to merge into one team called Equipe Quebec (Team Quebec) and start the 2021 season as a travel-only team playing games in the United States. The Ottawa Titans expansion team then decided to sit out the 2021 season and start play in 2022 reducing the league to 14 teams.
Major League Baseball Draft League: The new six-team MLB Draft League, which includes the top prospects eligible for the MLB summer draft and is operated by Prep Baseball Report, started its inaugural 2021 season this week. Teams called the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, OH), State College (PA) Spikes, West Virginia Black Bears (Morgantown) and the Williamsport (PA) Crosscutters joined from the former affiliated short-season Class-A New York-Penn League that was shut down as part of the restructuring of Minor League Baseball. The Trenton (NJ) Thunder joined the new league after losing its MLB affiliation as part of the former Double-A Eastern League, and the Frederick (MD) Keys joined after losing its MLB affiliation as part of the former high Class-A Carolina League.
United Shore Professional Baseball League: The four-team independent developmental USPBL started its 2021 season this weekend with the same four teams as last season playing a total of 75 games at the league's stadium in Utica (MI). The USPBL teams include the Utica Unicorns and Eastside Diamond Hoppers in the East and the Westside Woolly Mammoths and Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers in the West. The USPBL started play in the 2016 season.
National Basketball Association G-League: The NBA G-League's Maine Red Claws (Portland) team, which was purchased by the Boston Celtics prior to the 2019-20 season, has changed its name to the Maine Celtics ahead of the 2021-22 season. The Maine Red Claws joined the league in the 2009-10 season.
The Basketball League: The owner of the TBL's Portland (OR) Storm, which was announced as a 2021 expansion team and decided to sit out this season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), will move the team to Vancouver (WA) where it will be called the Vancouver Volcanoes when its starts play in 2022. A previous team called the Vancouver Volcanoes played ten seasons (2005-14) in the former International Basketball League.
Indoor Football League: The ownership of the IFL's recently announced 2022 Las Vegas expansion franchise has filed trademark registrations for three possible team names: the Vegas Knight Hawks, Vegas Neon Knights and the Vegas Knightmare.
National Arena League: The NAL started its 2021 season this week with six teams: the Albany (NY) Empire, Carolina Cobras (Greensboro, NC), Columbus (GA) Lions, Jacksonville Sharks, Jersey Flight (Trenton) and Orlando Predators. The league had seven teams set to play last year, but the entire 2020 season was cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Of those seven teams, the West Virginia Roughriders (Wheeling) decided to sit out the 2021 season and the Massachusetts Pirates (Worcester) left for the Indoor Football League. The Albany Empire and Ontario (CA) Bandits were added as 2021 expansion teams, but this week the Ontario Bandits decided to go dormant for the 2021 season.
American Arena League: The AAL's Tampa Bay Tornadoes have decided to cancel the remainder of its 2021 season due to a problem with a majority business partner. The team had a 3-1 league record and the league schedule showed only one game left to be played.
Women's National Football Conference: After cancelling its 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the nationwide full-tackle WNFC started its 2021 season earlier this month with 20 teams aligned in a 9-team Pacific Division and an 11-team Atlantic Division. The WNFC played its inaugural season in 2019 with 15 teams.
United States Hockey League: The Tier-I junior-level USHL recently held its player draft and will have all 16 teams participating in the 2021-22 season. The league's Madison (WI) Capitols will return after sitting out the 2020-21 season due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions and the league's Cedar Rapids (IA) RoughRiders will return after sitting out the 2020-21 season due to storm damage to its home arena.
Professional Women's Hockey Players Association: The PWHPA held the last stop on its 2021 Secret Dream Gap Tour this week with a seven-day six-game event in Calgary (Alberta) presented by the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames. Participating teams included the organization's three Canadian teams-Team Scotiabank (Calgary), Team Sonnet (Toronto) and Team Bauer (Montreal).
United States Premier Hockey League: The junior-level USPHL announced a team called the Ontario (CA) Junior Reign will join the Pacific division of the USPHL's Tier-III Premier Division for the 2021-22 season. Originally called the Anaheim Wildcats, the organization became the Junior Reign in 2017 when it entered into a partnership with the American Hockey League's Ontario Reign, which is an affiliate of the National Hockey League's Los Angeles Kings.
Liga de Expansión MX: The CD (Club Deportivo) Irapuato, which recently won Mexico's third division Liga Premier championship, has been promoted to the second division Liga de Expansión for the next 2021-22 Apertura/Clausura season. The Liga de Expansión operated with 16 teams this past season.
Premier Ligue de Soccer du Quebec: Canada's Division-3 semi-pro provincial PLSQ announced awhile back it will have a ten-team Men's Division and a ten-team Women's Division in 2021, but the season has yet to start due to coronavirus (COVID-19) issues and restrictions. The PLSQ season usually runs from early May to mid-August. Last season the league was forced to play a shortened fall season without all teams participating. The PLSQ has been around since the 2012 season.
League1 BC (British Columbia): The proposed League1 BC or BC League1, which would be similar to Canada's two other Division-3 provincial leagues called League1 Ontario and the Premier Ligue de Soccer du Quebec, has been trying to organize since 2019. The league originally proposed a start in 2021 with six to eight teams, but a start in 2022 or beyond appears to be more likely.
National Lacrosse League: The owner of the San Diego Seals franchise in the indoor professional NLL has reached an agreement to bring an NLL expansion team to Las Vegas for the 2022-23 season.
Western Lacrosse Association: The seven-team British Columbia-based indoor (box lacrosse) Senior-A WLA has cancelled its entire season for the second year in a row due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. The WLA season typically runs from late May through July with teams playing an 18-game schedule. The league had considered playing a delayed and shortened 2021 season. Also, the Senior-A championship called the Mann Cup, which features the WLA champion playing the champion of the Ontario-based Major Series Lacrosse, has also been cancelled for 2021.
Major Series Lacrosse: The six-team Ontario-based indoor (box lacrosse) Senior-A MSL has cancelled its entire season for the second year in a row due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. The MSL had considered delaying and shortening its season that typically runs from late May through July with teams playing an 18-game schedule. Also, the Senior-A championship called the Mann Cup, which features the MSL champion playing the champion of the British Columbia-based Western Lacrosse Association, has also been cancelled for 2021.
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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